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Harmful Fluoride Levels Found in Instant Tea

Instant Iced Tea Mixes May Contain Excessively High Fluoride Levels

WebMD Health News

Jan. 25, 2005 -- Instant iced tea mixes may contain potentially harmful levels of fluoride, according to a new study.

Researchers found some commercial iced tea mixes contain up to 6.5 parts per million (ppm) of fluoride, which is well above the 4 ppm maximum allowed by the EPA in drinking water and 2.4 ppm permitted by the FDA in bottled water and beverages.

The results indicate constantly quenching your thirst with instant iced teas may increase your risk of a rare, but potentially dangerous bone disorder caused by getting too much fluoride in your system.

When fluoride levels are too high, it causes bone-forming cells to produce more skeletal tissue, which increases bone density but also bone brittleness. The condition leads to a disease called skeletal fluorosis and may result in bone pain, stiffening of ligaments, bone spurs, fused vertebrae, and difficulty in moving joints.

"When fluoride gets into your bones, it stays there for years, and there is no established treatment for skeletal fluorosis," says researcher Michael Whyte, MD, professor of medicine, pediatrics, and genetics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, in a news release. "No one knows if you can fully recover from it."

"The tea plant is known to accumulate fluoride from the soil and water. Our study points to the need for further investigation of the fluoride content of teas," says Whyte. "We don't know how much variation there is from brand to brand and year to year."

Iced Teas May Have Too Much Fluoride

Researchers analyzed the fluoride content of commercial instant tea mixes after diagnosing a middle-aged woman with spinal pain caused by extremely dense bones. Tests showed that the woman had high levels of fluoride in her urine.

The woman said she drank 1 to 2 gallons of double-strength instant tea throughout the day, which prompted researchers to test for fluoride content in several brands of instant iced tea mixes available in grocery stores.

They sent 10 samples of iced tea mixes to two different independent laboratories in St. Louis for testing. The teas were prepared on two separate occasions using distilled water.

The results appear in the January issue of The American Journal of Medicine.

Their analysis showed that the fluoride content of the instant tea mixes varied from 1.0 ppm to a high of 6.5 ppm. The results of the tests for each brand appear below:

BrandProductLaboratory 1 (Flouride ppm)Laboratory 2 (Flouride ppm)Mean Results (Flouride ppm)
LiptonInstant (1999)2.72.62.6
LiptonInstant (2003)7.75.46.5
LiptonInstant decaffeinated3.12.42.7
LiptonInstant diet iced tea mix (decaffeinated lemon)1.11.01.0
LiptonNaturally decaffeinated flow-through bags1.92.02.0
NesteaInstant2.42.12.3
NesteaInstant decaffeinated2.42.22.3
SchnucksInstant1.51.01.3
AriZonaLemon iced tea mix2.51.92.2
LuzianneSpecially blended for iced tea (bags)3.93.13.5

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