Most Teas At Grocery Retailers Contain Toxic Levels of Fluoride
Drinking cheaper tea blends found at major grocery retailers can increase the level of people's fluoride intake to toxic levels and put them at increased risk of skeletal and dental illnesses, a University of Derby study has found.
Levels of fluoride found in 38 tea products were compared with each other and to the US National Academy of Sciences' (NAS) daily dietary reference intake in the research by Laura Chan, Professor Aradhana Mehra and Professor Paul Lynch from the University of Derby. The study is published in journal Food Research International.
A previous study in the January 2005 issue of the Journal of American Medicine also found that instant teas appear to contain excessive levels of sodium fluoride. Green tea is one of the worst culprits having double the amount of fluoride as black tea. Brick tea has the highest fluoride concentration and symptoms of fluorosis have been seen in Tibetan children and adults who drink large amounts of this kind of tea.
Tea plants accumulate fluoride in their leaves over time, so the oldest leaves contain the most fluoride, while the youngest contain the least. Therefore, white tea (which is made from youngest leaves and buds) is your best bet to reduce fluoride exposure.
Using Ion Selective Electrode (ISE) analysis - which can analyse trace elements, such as fluoride, in a liquid - of the dry tea, and of the tea infusions brewed with boiling water for two minutes, the researchers compared the fluoride levels ingested by someone drinking the average daily intake of tea (four cups or one litre).
Significant differences in fluoride levels were discovered when economy black tea blends from supermarkets Asda, Tesco, Morrisons and Sainsbury's were compared with branded black tea blends such as PG Tips, Twining's, Typhoo; and with green tea blends including Clipper Organic leaf, Green Twining's bags; pure blends such as Assam, Dilmah and Ceylon; and Oolong and Pu'er blends from India and Sri Lanka.
Infusions of economy black tea blends, such as Asda Smartprice, Tesco Value, Morrisons Value, Sainsbury's Basics, and Waitrose Essential, were found to have the highest concentration of fluoride - an average of six milligrammes (mg) per litre. Although, Waitrose Essential was significantly lower in fluoride compared to the other economy black blends.
When compared to the NAS daily dietary reference intake of four milligrammes of fluoride per day, these economy blends of tea contained from 75% to 120% of the recommended daily intake.
Infusions of green tea blends had the next highest concentrations, followed by branded black blends such as PG Tips, Twining's and Typhoo with an average of 3.3 mg per litre, then pure blends.
Oolong and Pu'er teas had the lowest concentrations of fluoride - an average of 0.7 mg/litre or just ten per cent to 16% of the daily reference intake.
Laura Chan, who carried out the study for her PhD at the University of Derby, said: "The tea plant, Camellia sinensis, is a fluoride accumulator, with mature leaves accumulating most of the fluoride.
"When tea is harvested, these older leaves may be used to produce lower quality, stronger teas such as economy teas, whereas the bud and newer top leaves are used in the manufacture of higher grade and speciality tea products.
In another study in Caries Research (1996) 30:88-92 Fluoride content in caffeinated, decaffeinated and herbal teas, the average fluoride concentration of infusions prepared from decaffeinated (green & black) tea were found to be 3.19 ppm and ranged from 1.01 to 5.20. This was unexpectedly higher than caffeinated tea and such a difference was statistically significant in this study. It is thought that this is due to the high fluoride content in the water involved in the de-caffeination process, which then would also make coffee similarly decaffeinated high in fluoride content.
In addition, the caffeine in tea has a great augmentative effect on the bio-availability of fluoride. In 1990 researchers at the University of Texas even theorized that "the rise in incidence of dental fluorosis in North America is mainly due to the replacement of water intake by caffeine-containing beverages among the young population.
A very important study from 1998 conducted at the Nanchang University in China showed that in older rats fed green tea water extract or green tea leaves, the cerebrum calcium contents were significantly decreased and aluminum contents increased. Zinc contents in the cerebrum were also gradually decreased with the increase of tea leaves dose and tea concentration. The cerebrum is the portion of the brain (frontal lobes) where thought and higher function reside.
Dental fluorosis, the mottling of tooth enamel, and skeletal fluorosis, pain and damage to bones and joints through calcification, can occur through excessive ingestion of fluoride.
"People may be drinking excessive volumes of tea in addition to other dietary sources of fluoride and may not realise these potential health implications. Indeed, there have been cases, in both the UK and the USA, of skeletal fluorosis in individuals who drank more than the average amount of economy tea." added Ms Chan.
Tea Exempt From Contaminant Levels Defined by Government
Fluoride in tea is much higher than the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) set for fluoride in drinking water which is 4 parts per million (ppm). About 50 percent of fluoride (from any source) is deposited in the bone and teeth; the other half is excreted.
The MCL is set so as to only avoid the third and crippling stage of this disease. It is set at 4ppm => 4mg/liter, assuming that people will retain half of this amount (2mg), and therefore be at a "safe" level. The EPA scientists, whose job and legal duty it is to set the MCL, declared that this level was set fraudulently by outside forces, and that 90% of the data showing the mutagenic properties of fluoride were omitted. Chemical toxicologist and former EPA consultant Nancy Webert stated "once that EPA started receiving funding from sources that were not disclosed to the public, fluoride studies and safety limits took a back seat to other interests." Webert believes the United States Government was fully aware of these foreign interests and did nothing to protect Americans from current levels of fluoride poisoning in drinking water.
How Does Fluoride Affect The Body?
Tea leaves accumulate more fluoride (from pollution of soil and air) than any other edible plant. Coincidently, fluoride content in tea has risen conconcurrently and dramatically with global tea consumption over the last 20 years.
Drinking high levels of fluoride can cause bone-forming cells to lay down extra skeletal tissue, which increases bone density. At the same time, it also increases bone brittleness that can result in a disease known as skeletal fluorosis. So while bones are more dense, they are also more brittle. Skeletal fluorosis can produce:
Bone, muscle and joint pain
Calcification of ligaments
Difficulty moving joints
Says Dr. Whyte, "When fluoride gets into your bones, it stays there for years, and there is no established treatment for skeletal fluorosis, No one knows if you can fully recover from it." In other words, fluoride accumulates in your body.
According to one estimate, the first phase of skeletal fluorosis could easily develop in as few as five years if a person were to consume the amount of fluoride found in three or four cups of green tea every day.
While in 1976 a Belgian analysis showed content of between 50 and 125 ppm fluoride in 15 varieties of tea, a Polish study in 1995 found fluoride content of up to 340 ppm in 16 varieties of black tea. A major Canadian study published in 1995 reports average fluoride content in tea to be 4.57 mg/l in the 1980's.
Virtually every company selling green tea advertises it's high fluoride content as "beneficial" in preventing cavities, promulgating the misleading and false data supplied for the last 50 years by the ADA/CDA and other dental health trade organizations, as well as various public health agencies. There are NO double-blind studies anywhere proving the efficacy of fluoride as a caries preventative. There ARE double-blind studies proving adverse health effects, at the level of 1ppm (1mg/l) in water. There are no studies documenting safety at any intake level.
Drinking a cup of tea with fluoride content as mentioned above (7.8mg) would mean a fluoride intake much higher than amounts which were actually given as medication to treat hyperthyroidism (over-functioning thyroid) for numerous decades - in several countries - specifically to reduce thyroid activity.
To make matters much worse for human health, fluorides in teas are found together with aluminum. The combination of aluminum and fluorides in tea is of urgent concern, due to the increased damage done by fluorides when in the presence of aluminum, especially neurological and renal damage. It also increases the extent to which aluminum can be absorbed by the body, which has been linked to Alzheimer's disease.
Aluminum by itself is not readily absorbed by the body, however in the presence of fluoride ions, the fluoride ions combine with the aluminum to form aluminum fluoride, which is absorbed by the body. Aluminum eventually combines with oxygen to form aluminum oxide or alumina. Alumina is the compound of aluminum that is found in the brains of Alzheimer's disease.
What Can You Do?
Stick to white tea which has the least amount of fluoride by ratio. Favour purchasing organic tea over conventional. It doesn't mean all organic teas will be absent of fluoride, but the methods for cultivation are typically superior to conventional growers and some may even use purified water for the soil to grow their teas and herbs.
Marco Torres is a research specialist, writer and consumer advocate for healthy lifestyles. He holds degrees in Public Health and Environmental Science and is a professional speaker on topics such as disease prevention, environmental toxins and health policy.