10 steps to cutting back on fluoride

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Whether you re in favor of fluoridated water or not, it makes sense to know how much fluoride you're getting from all sources--and consider limiting your exposure. These steps can help:

1 Find out the fluoride level of your community's drinking water. Call your local water department or visit www.prevention.com/water to look up the CDC's tally of fluoride levels in your town.

2 If the fluoride concentration in your community water is more than 2 ppm, the CDC recommends finding an alternative source of drinking water for children ages 8 or younger to reduce their risk of dental fluorosis. The best alternative: bottled water to which no fluoride has been added (it will say on the label). However, to be doubly sure, you'll have to contact the bottler. Or visit www.prevention.com/water for a list of the top brands with low--or no--fluoride.

3 Use a filtration system to reduce levels of fluoride, but don't count on those pitchers with charcoal filters to do the trick. Most experts recommend putting reverse-osmosis filters on your tap; manufacturers claim they remove 80 to 90% of fluoride from water. Cost: several hundred dollars.

4 Monitor small children when they brush their teeth with fluoride toothpaste until you are confident that they only use a pea-size amount and don't swallow it.

5 Has your pediatrician or dentist prescribed fluoride supplements for your kids? Ask why--and then ask whether a fluoride rinse would work just as well.

6 Curb your kids'--and your own--thirst for soda pop because it's generally made with fluoridated water. Fruit juice, beer, and wine also give you lots of it. At www.prevention.com/water you'll find a USDA listing of the fluoride content in hundreds of foods and drinks.

7 Don't let fear of fluoride spoil your taste for tea--iced or regular-but brew it at regular strength, consider using nonfluoridated water, and limit yourself to a serving or two per day,

8 Choose organic fruits and vegetables: The US National Organic Program does not allow the use of the pesticides that leave high fluoride residues.

9 Avoid or limit your consumption of mechanically deboned chicken in any form--nuggets, baby food, canned. These may contain high amounts of fluoride. The deboning process often leaves traces of fluoride-containing bone in the final product.

10 If you have a baby on powdered formula, mix the formula with unfluoridated water. And go easy on baby food made with chicken (see above).

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By T. G.

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