CHENNAI: The state government will soon go to schools to warn children against consumption of processed food and soft drinks that could cause fluorosis.
Fluorosis, that causes degeneration of teeth and bones resulting in deformity in children, was thought to be a rural phenomenon, because of high fluoride content in water. Now studies show that processed food is high on fluorides.
Fluorosis that affects children in the age group of 5 – 14, is caused by the consumption of excessive fluoride in water or food.
It can be dental fluorosis that erodes the enamel during tooth development, or skeletal fluorosis that causes pain and damage to bones and joints, resulting in deformity.
Tamil Nadu is planning programmes as part of the national programme for prevention and control of fluorosis. The state has sent a proposal to the Centre to extend the programme to 10 districts.
A similar programme was implemented in 2006 in Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri districts where the incidence has been high due to high fluoride content in ground water.
Medical teams had then found some 2,000 people with mild to severe forms of fluorosis. They were given treatment as fluorosis is reversible to some degree. People were then made to use surface water.
“After the launch of safe drinking water projects, incidence of fluoride due to water has come down,” said Dr Kulandaisamy, Public Health Director, Tamil Nadu. “The worry now is processed food .”
A study on the health risk from fluoride exposure of a population in selected areas in TN, conducted by Gandhigram Rural Institute-Deemed University, Dindigul that fluoride in processed food is due to the use of fluoridated water. It also identified water as the major factor for fluoride toxicity in other sources like cow milk, food grains, green leafy vegetables and cooked rice.
Another study published in the Indian Journal of Dental Research found fluoride content of bottled water, fruit juices and carbonated soft drinks to be 0.20 mg, 0.29mg and 0.22 mg, respectively.
The study was based on 10 commercially available brands of bottled drinking water, 12 fruit juices and 12 carbonated soft drinks.
The guidance manual on integrated fluorosis mitigation framed by National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, Nagpur along with UNICEF and ICMR, has cited various studies done in the country which highlights that fluoride is found in tea, areca nut, tobacco, cardamom, wheat and vegetables like spinach, cabbage, carrots due to the use of fluoridated water.
Tea plants are found to have high fluoride uptake as trees accumulate and store fluoride, absorbing it selectively from air and soil, and about 97% gets accumulated in tea leaves.