Scientists in England, a major importer of tea, conducted a study using ion chromatography to discover that many less expensive teas contain high levels of fluoride. The Daily Telegraph reported that excess fluoride can lead to a condition called “fluorosis” which causes discoloration of the teeth, bone pain and stiffness.
Ion Chromatography Exposes Danger of Over Consumption
Bottom line: don’t drink too much cheap tea. IC analysis revealed that economy ‘own-brand’ supermarket tea contains, on average, higher levels of fluoride than more expensive brands. Why? Because tea plants soak up fluoride when grown in acidic soil.
The longer the tea plants grow, the more fluoride they contain. Younger leaves make high quality premium tea, while leaves that are harvested last (fluoride-rich older leaves) are used to produce the low-quality economy brands.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, low levels of fluoride can stop or even reversing the tooth decay process because it helps keep tooth enamel strong and solid. On the other hand, fluorosis, caused by consuming an excess of fluoride, can damage the enamel. Providing a case report of a U.S. woman who had been drinking 6.5 pints of tea daily since the age of 12, the study showed that she experienced significant bone damage due to her excessive tea consumption.
Where’s an Ion Chromatographer When You Need One?
Ion chromatography analyzed fluoride levels in 38 teas, mostly from UK supermarkets. Knowing that previous research found that consuming tea with high levels of fluoride was connected to dental and bone problems, the researcher chose to utilize ion chromatography in order to assess users’ exposure to fluoride from their consumption of tea in the UK.
Currently, the U.S. enforceable drinking water standard for fluoride is 4.0 mg/L. Ion chromatography uncovered the shocking fact that UK supermarket economy teas contained elevated fluoride, ranging from 3.60 to 7.96 mg/L in a 2-minute brewing infusion!
In addition, calling the difference between two and 30 minute infusions extremely significant, the researchers discovered that longer infusion times increased fluoride levels.
Three Mugs a Day
Concluding that drinking cheap tea may exceed recommended fluoride levels, the researchers warned that all tea products should be considered as a source of fluoride. Supermarkets and manufacturers of tea should consider stating fluoride concentrations on food packaging, they wrote.
What do you do if premium teas are not in your budget? Limit consumption. Official guidance doesn‘t exist, but most experts suggest drinking no more than three mugs of tea a day.