During the time water fluoridation started, in Australia from 1962 onwards, dental products did not contain any fluoride. Toothpaste, mouthwash, gels and varnishes containing fluoride were not available. In the last 60 years, one after the other fluoride product has entered the market which considerably increased fluoride exposure. Of particular concern is children being over-exposed to fluoride.
As with the increase in products containing fluoride, the overall exposure to fluoride increased. Processed food and drink using fluoridated water, fluoride containing pesticides, teas (including bottled teas), fluorinated pharmaceuticals, Teflon pans, dental treatments, and working in certain industries (for example iron, oil refining, aluminium and fertiliser industries) are some of the additional sources of fluoride. For any benefit that fluoride may offer, the concern is not under-exposure, but over-exposure, over long periods of time. Especially considering that in healthy individuals (adults), only 50% of daily fluoride intake is excreted. In children and infants 80% of absorbed fluoride is retained (largely due to fluoride uptake in growing bones) (Agency for Toxic Substances, & Disease Registry ATSDR, 2003).
As large amounts of fluoride is necessary to create acute toxicity, the debate is focused on chronic exposure to this toxic substance.