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Fluoride poisoning is a biological consequence of ingestion by a person of excessive amounts of fluoride through a variety of different sources. While this can result in death, the most common effects of this type of poisoning are gastrointestinal and severe discomfort, nausea, and vomiting. There are a number of different ways in which a person can be exposed to high amounts of fluoride, though in children it is typically accidental exposure through ingestion of dental products. Fluoride poisoning can also be a major concern in some countries where large amounts of fluoride may be present in ground water.
Also called fluoride toxicity, fluoride poisoning occurs when a person is exposed to large amounts of fluoride. Fluoride is typically absorbed by a person’s system and excessive amounts are released from the body through urination. When large amounts of fluoride are introduced to a person’s system, however, it becomes too much for the body to handle safely and the excess fluoride in a person’s gastrointestinal system creates hydrofluoric acid in the stomach. This can lead to a number of serious health concerns, though in most cases the result is severe discomfort and gastrointestinal distress.
Fluoride poisoning tends to cause nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea. While these symptoms are not necessarily lethal, it is important for anyone experiencing these effects to drink plenty of fluids to remain hydrated. Since fluoride poisoning is a toxic event within a person’s body, it is often best to contact local poison control for more information and seek professional medical assistance from a doctor or hospital. The estimated lethal doses for fluoride poisoning are believed to be about 5 to 10 grams (about 0.17 to about 0.35 ounces) in healthy adults, while only about 500 mg (less than 0.02 ounces) can be lethal for a child.
Exposure to fluoride in amounts large enough to cause fluoride poisoning is typically the result of ingestion of large amounts of dental care products. Many products, such as toothpaste and some mouthwash, contain fluoride for the positive effects it can have on developing teeth. Children under six years of age should not typically use toothpaste with fluoride, especially without adult supervision, as children can be prone to swallowing the toothpaste since it can taste like candy. While fluoride that is added to drinking water in the US is generally not believed to be a health risk, ground water in some countries can have large amounts of fluoride present naturally; these amounts can be great enough to cause fluoride poisoning and may continue to be a health concern for years to come.