A new sensor being developed can indicate the level of fluoride in your water with a simple color change. Unlike previous attempts, this molecular sensor can differentiate between fluoride and…

Fluoride in Water
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New Sensor Tests Fluoride Levels

A new sensor being developed can indicate the level of fluoride in your water with a simple color change. Unlike previous attempts, this molecular sensor can differentiate between fluoride and other negatively charged ions.

A researcher from Florida State University developed the system because only a minor change in the amount of fluoride can take fluoridated water from being beneficial to dangerous.

Fluoride: Good or Evil?

An article entitled “Molecular Sensor Could Protect People From a Potential Carcinogen – Fluoride” in Medical News Today describes the differences:

Used in the proper amounts, it can make teeth stronger and aid in the treatment of osteoporosis. When excessive amounts are consumed, however, it can be a killer – a carcinogen that causes bone, lung and bladder cancers. The “it” is fluoride, a common additive in most American communities’ drinking water and an ingredient in the vast majority of commercially produced adult toothpastes.

The article goes on to explain how it works:

Fluoride is also used in several medicines used to treat the brittle-bone disease osteoporosis. Given in the proper amounts, the fluoride appears to stimulate the formation of new bone tissue. However, when excessive amounts of fluoride build up in body tissues, they can lead to a variety of health maladies, including skeletal fluorosis, which causes pain and damage to bones and joints. Excessive fluoride over a length of time has also been linked to the development of osteosarcoma – a malignant and potentially fatal bone cancer – as well as cancers of the lungs and bladder. For those reasons and others, fluoride has not been formally approved by the FDA for the treatment of osteoporosis in the United States.

Fluoride in Drinking Water

Drinking water can safely contain up to one part per million of fluoride ions, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Many researchers say that small amounts of fluoride react with minerals in the water to create a hard, protective coating on the surface of the teeth.

Anything above two parts per million is typically considered a substantial health risk. This can lead to anything from fluorosis (mottled surface or cracks on the teeth) to even cancer, researchers say. The difference between one part per million and two parts per million is minute, yet the impact is significant.

Compound Reaction with Fluoride

Researchers found a group of colorless compounds called naphthalene diimide (NDI) that react with fluoride ions by changing colors.

  • A large amount of fluoride turns the sensitive compound pink.
  • A smaller amount of fluoride makes the compound orange.

Scientists are thus able to test the concentration simply by watching the compound rather than resorting to extensive testing.

Researchers hope to use this sensor both in the U.S. and overseas, since many places have naturally fluoridated water at dangerous levels with no practical way to measure it.

Do you think this sensor will be beneficial?

To learn more about fluoride, check out these articles:

ADA Pronounces Fluoride Harmful for Children

Fluoride Provides Seniors Affordable Dental Benefits

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