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September 18, 1943


JAMA. 1943;123(3):150-151. doi:10.1001/jama.1943.02840380026010

Distribution of the element fluorine is so widespread throughout nature that a small intake of the element is practically unavoidable. Fluorides are general protoplasmic poisons, probably because of their capacity to modify the metabolism of cells by changing the permeability of the cell membrane and by inhibiting certain enzyme systems. The exact mechanism of such actions is obscure. The sources of fluorine intoxication are drinking water containing 1 part per million or more of fluorine, fluorine compounds used as insecticidal sprays for fruits and vegetables (cryolite and barium fluosilicate) and the mining and conversion of phosphate rock to superphosphate, which is used as fertilizer. The fluorine content of phosphate rock is about 4 per cent. During conversion to superphosphate, about 25 per cent of the fluorine present is volatilized and represents a pouring into the atmosphere of approximately 25,000 tons of pure fluorine annually. Another source of fluorine intoxication is