Since the 1800s, fluoride has been a key component in rat poison and insecticides. When mixed into grain or other food, rats will readily consume the poison and die. This method was deemed to be preferable to other poisonous compounds because it was less hazardous to the humans and livestock that might accidentally ingest it. The use of fluoride in rat poison has declined over the years, replaced by blood-thinning compounds that were deemed to be safer and more effective.
The term fluoride refers to compounds comprised of fluorine and at least one other element. Various types of fluoride occur naturally in soil and water. Calcium fluoride is produced naturally in the human body and serves to strengthen the skeletal system.
Though it varies with age, the Food and Drug Administration has determined a recommended daily allowance for fluoride to maintain healthy teeth and bones. Regardless of age, the recommended dosage is quite small and can be obtained by eating a balanced diet.
In rat poison, the amount of fluoride content varied as different manufacturers developed their own proprietary formulas. In general, the products contained far more fluoride than necessary to induce death. This was to ensure that the products gained a reputation for being effective against vermin. Fluoride is no longer used in rat poisons sold in the United States.
Fluoride In Dental Care
The most commonly manufactured form is sodium fluoride, a toothpaste and municipal water additive used to minimize the impact of tooth decay. According to the American Dental Association, the introduction of small quantities of sodium fluoride into the diet has led to a decrease in the number and size of cavities in children since it has been in general use by the public. Municipal water fluoridation is hailed as one of the greatest achievements in public health during the 20th century by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention..
Over the years, there has been significant controversy surrounding the use of fluoride in products developed for human ingestion. This is largely due to the fact that the first widespread usage of fluoride containing products were for the eradication of vermin. It was common to use these products in and around the home to kill mice, rats and insects. For many people, it is inconceivable to use or recommend a product that contains a known poison.
It has been theorized that the fluoride in dental products may cause accidental poisoning, if ingested in large quantities. For this reason, a warning to avoid accidental swallowing is required on all tubes of toothpaste in the United States containing the ingredient.
Additional studies have been launched to determine if the fluoride used in municipal water and dental preparations can cause damage to white blood cells or lead to cancer. The results have been mixed, with only one study of lab rats showing a link to bone cancer. Subsequent studies have shown that fluoride does not increase cancer rates and is not a carcinogen.
Products containing fluoride should be kept out of reach of children younger than the age of 6. All dental hygiene activities should be closely monitored by an adult to ensure that large amounts of toothpaste are not ingested. In the event that fluoride overdose is suspected, the National Poison Control Center should be contacted at 1-800-222-1222 for information on how to proceed.
Scientists discovered that residents of areas with naturally occurring fluoride levels in the drinking water of one part per million had fewer cavities than those living in places without naturally occurring fluoride. This discovery in the 1940s led to the fluoridation of municipal water systems across the country. In 1945, Grand Rapids Michigan became the first city to begin fluoridating the municipal water supply.
In 1948, the Eastman Kodak Company acquired the last patent for rights to a hydrolyzed fluoride formula to be used as a rat poison and insecticide. At that time, the marketplace was turning to the use of the blood thinner warfarin as a safer and more effective way to eradicate vermin.
- Photo Credit rat image by Henryk Olszewski from Fotolia.com
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