Drinking Water – Fluoride

fluoride in drinking waterIn the United Kingdom, the question of fluoride being added to the water supplies has been raised by fanciers in the Salisbury area, as in nearby Southampton fluoride has been added to the tap water.

Whether this is recently or some time ago is not known, but it is a fact that most of the water companies have been adding fluoride for many years into our water system.

The Purpose of Fluoride in Drinking Water

Since 1916 (that long ago!), it has been known that the lack of fluoride in our drinking water has allowed dental caries (decay) to occur in children. This is because the right amount of fluoride causes formation of tooth enamel that is much more resistant to decay

This caused the UK water companies (in fairly recent times) to add one part per million of fluoride to the water they supply to us.

This action caused great debate at the time and continues to this day whenever the subject arises.

There seems little doubt that this inclusion has been beneficial for children, but one area is worrying. That is if the amount of fluoride added to the water is inaccurate. Excessive fluoride is just as harmful to the teeth as insufficient amounts – but more of that later.

The data I have to hand suggests that it may be that only children are the ones who benefit!

Sources of Fluoride

Fluoride is a natural trace element for animals and humans which occurs in the earth’s crust, but by adding fluoride artificially, there is no barrier to the absorption of this substance.

It occurs in the bones, teeth, the thyroid gland (the Adam’s Apple) and skin.

That said, a great deal of fluoride is excreted via the urine.

The richest source of fluoride is via tea, particularly Chinese tea apparently. Indian tea is less rich.

Toothpastes also contain fluoride traces apparently.

Levels of Fluoride

Problems in humans and animals can occur whether fluoride levels are too low or too high!

Insufficient levels can cause dental decay in children. In animals (and that includes birds), insufficient fluoride levels causes anaemia and infertility in mice. It also causes stunted growth in rats and chicks as well as reduced skeletal development.

Excessive amounts of fluoride in humans can cause mottled brown patches on teeth. In severe cases, it can cause tooth enamel to become soft, crumbly, and darkly stained.

Excessive fluoride in dairy animals can cause weakened bones that are more prone to fracture. Reduced milk yield is also another possible outcome.

In Conclusion: Fluoride

As readers will realise there is no solid conclusion that we as bird fanciers can come to with the above information – hence the controversy continues to be debated at length.

One can speculate, for example, that small birds with small frames could be attributed to fluoride or that poor fertility is induced by the same chemical.

Then we have the matter (again speculation) of feather dusters appearing, but that can be an entirely genetic mutation and nothing to do at all with fluoride.

What is interesting, is that when a feather duster arrives (and as we know, they are obliged to be put down eventually), the neck bones are terribly strong compared to normal budgerigars. Why is a question I cannot answer. All I know, is that it is a sickening process which is best avoided by not breeding with lines in which these “monsters” appear.

Finally, I do worry, that within the water companies, the addition of fluoride to our water in careless or inexperienced hands could be a hazard.

Knowing fanciers frequently think that “twice as much is twice as good” (for example with vitamin solutions), when it is certainly not, one wonders therefore how strict the controls are when fluoride is added by water company staff?

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About the Author: Gerald Binks began breeding budgerigars when he was 12 years old and is now arguably the most knowledgeable budgerigar fancier in the world. He has bred his fair share of Best in Show birds, judged in no less than 20 countries, founded the World Budgerigar Association, and has published two of the three classic books on the hobby. His stud in the UK attracts fanciers from near and far and is always high on the list for those wishing to purchase BA23 quality budgerigars.

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  1. Kaz says:

    We (in Australia) have had fluoridated water since before I was born.

    My budgerigars get water from the tap with no ill effects.

    All budgerigars raised here in Australia would have been on the same water all these years.

    Kaz, Australia

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