Fluoride is a common air contaminant in industrial workplaces. As a result, workers in many heavy industries, including the aluminum, fertilizer, iron, oil refining, semi-conductor, and steel industries, can be routinely exposed to high levels of fluoride exposure. Since fluoride is also a common element of fluxes used in welding, welders are commonly exposed to airborne fluorides as well.

Inhaling airborne fluorides is not only a significant risk factor for respiratory disease; it can be a huge daily source fluoride intake. Under current regulations, industries are allowed to have 2.5 mg/m3 of fluoride in the air, which produces “a fluoride intake of 16.8 mg/day for an 8-hour working day.” (NRC, 2006).

With the downsizing of U.S. heavy industries, it is unclear how many workers are currently exposed to airborne fluorides. In the 1970s, however, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimated that 350,000 American workers, in 92 occupations, had potential exposure. (Hodge, 1977).

Environmental exposure to fluoride continues to be a pressing concern for occupational health and safety. By examining the sources and levels of exposure, we can develop informed strategies to protect workers and mitigate associated health risks.