Fluoride Action Network



  • Chronic excess dietary fluoride intake contributes to degenerative joint disease.
  • Species differences in lesion location largely explained by biomechanics of gait.
  • Irrespective of bone fluoride, koalas show higher baseline prevalence of DJD.
  • Increasing bone fluoride associated with prevalence of moderate and severe lesions.
  • Inconsistencies in relationship explained by the effect of selective survival bias.

One of the manifestations of chronic fluoride toxicosis in mammals is skeletal fluorosis, which can include lesions of degenerative joint disease (DJD). Although DJD lesions have been less commonly studied than bone or dental lesions in relation to the pathology and epidemiology of fluoride toxicosis, there have been multiple independent studies in various species that have concluded that there appears to be an effect. The mechanisms by which fluoride affects the joints are not clear, but our data provide evidence that chronic excess dietary fluoride intake contributes to DJD. Our study is the first to specifically address the association between fluoride exposure and DJD in multiple species of free-ranging mammals. We describe levels of DJD in six marsupial species (Macropus giganteus, Notamacropus rufogriseus, Wallabia bicolor, Phascolarctos cinereus, Trichosurus vulpecula and Pseudocheirus peregrinus) inhabiting high and low fluoride environments. Lesions occurred to varying extents in all species, and lesion distribution varied with biomechanical differences in gait. In addition, we show an association (independent of age) between increasing bone fluoride concentration (as a measure of fluoride exposure) and increasing prevalence of moderate and severe DJD in five species of marsupial, which we propose does not persist at the highest levels of fluoride exposure due to selective survival bias.