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Fluorine

Overview


Flourine is a univalent pale yellow poisonous gas at room temperature that readily forms compounds with most elements. It is the most chemically reactive and electronegative of all elements.

It is often added to toothpaste and municipal water supplies because it is elemental to producing strong bones. But, in large quantities, it can cause fluorosis and osteoporosis.

Chemical Description


Flourine is a pale yellow gas at room temperature that is highly reactive. In moist conditions, it bonds with hydrogen forming the highly toxic hydrofluoric acid which can be fatal if only 10% of one's body is exposed.

Uses


Fluorine's use is very limited due to its because of how reactive it is to many substances. Below is a list of some of the uses for fluorine or fluoride:

  • fluorine and its compounds are used in producing isotopically fractionated uranium (from UF6)

  • commercial fluorochemicals, including many well known high-temperature plastics

  • hydrofluoric acid is extensively used for etching the glass of light bulbs, etc.

  • fluorochloro hydrocarbons are used extensively in air conditioning and refrigeration

  • in small amounts, fluorides in water sources prevent tooth decay. A constituent of toothpaste for the same reason. Soluble fluoride in drinking water (2 ppm) may cause mottled enamel in teeth of children acquiring permanent teeth. 

Health Effects


Fluorine is naturally present in the environment and thus humans are exposed to it routinely. It is necessary to maintain healthy bone structure in humans. However, in gaseous form it is highly toxic and contact with eyes and skin should be avoided. In its elemental form it has a pungent odor that is readily detectable. It is also highly combustible. Fluorine released into the air can cause death in large quantities. Exposure to low doses often results in eye and skin irritation.

Hydrofluoric acid is extremely toxic as well. Its danger is exacerbated by the fact that initial contact with the acid is painless though it travels through cells very rapidly making the initially painless burns extremely deep.

The ionic form of fluorine, fluoride, is used commonly in dental products and is found in nearly all concentrations of drinking water. Its chronic toxicity is currently being debated. See fluoride page.

Environmental Effects


From Lenntech:
When fluorine from the air ends up in water it will settle into the sediment. When it ends up in soils, fluorine will become strongly attached to soil particles. In the environment fluorine cannot be destroyed; it can only change form.

Fluorine that is located in soils may accumulate in plants. The amount of uptake by plants depends upon the type of plant and the type of soil and the amount and type of fluorine found in the soil. With plants that are sensitive for fluorine exposure even low concentrations of fluorine can cause leave damage and a decline in growth. Too much fluoride, wheater taken in form the soil by roots, or asdorbed from the atmosphere by the leaves, retards the growth of plants and reduces crop yields. Those more affected are corns and apricots.

Animals that eat fluorine-containing plants may accumulate large amounts of fluorine in their bodies. Fluorine primarily accumulates in bones. Consequently, animals that are exposed to high concentrations of fluorine suffer from dental decay and bone degradation. Too much fluorine can also cause the uptake of food from the paunch to decline and it can disturb the development of claws. Finally, it can cause low birth-weights.

Current Events


History


Flourine was first mentioned in the early 16th century by German miners and later appeared in Georgious Agricola work in 1530 where he described flourspar (calcium flouride). The mineral appears in nature in several forms each with a varying tint and were often mistaken for precious gems.

The first systematic study of flourspar was in 1771 when the Swedish apothecary Carl Wilhelm Scheele added acid to flourspar and the resulting reaction led to fumes which collected on the sides of the glass. The ability of fluoride to "etch" glass has become its calling card. This test led to the discovery of fluoride containing compounds in numerous places.

The isolation of fluorine from numerous other compounds, especially from hydrogen, took many years and occupied many scientists.

Advocacy and Opinion


See Flouride.


References


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