According to this document from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), distillation and reverse osmosis are both effective at lowering the fluoride level of drinking water to below 4 mg/L.
How will fluoride be removed from my drinking water?
The following treatment method(s) have proven to be effective for removing fluoride to below 4.0 mg/L or 4.0 ppm: distillation or reverse osmosis.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says in this document that distillation and reverse osmosis systems may reduce fluoride levels, but the manufacturer should be consulted.
Will using a home water filtration system take the fluoride out of my home's water?
Removal of fluoride from water is a difficult water treatment action. Most point-of-use treatment systems for homes that are installed for use by single faucets use activated carbon filtration, which will not remove the fluoride ion. The ability of other treatment systems such as reverse osmosis, ion exchange, or distillation systems to reduce fluoride levels vary in their effectiveness to reduce fluoride. Check with the manufacturer of the individual product.
They go on to say, that if you're concerned about the level of fluoride in the water. Bottled water may be a safe alternative.
If you are concerned about the fluoride level in your home water (above the level of 2 parts per million), you should use water from a commercial bottler whose water has the level of fluoride you desire. The optimal level of fluoride in drinking water for the prevention of tooth decay is 0.7 ppm to 1.2 ppm.
Another document from the CDC states that reverse osmosis systems will remove fluoride, but does not mention fluoride removal with distillation.
Reverse Osmosis Systems
- Reverse Osmosis Systems will remove common chemical contaminants (metal ions, aqueous salts), including sodium, chloride, copper, chromium, and lead; may reduce arsenic, fluoride, radium, sulfate, calcium, magnesium, potassium, nitrate, and phosphorous.
- Distillation Systems will remove common chemical contaminants, including arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, lead, nitrate, sodium, sulfate, and many organic chemicals.
In yet another document from the CDC, they state that reverse osmosis and distillation systems can reduce fluoride levels if the systems are certified to do so.
Reverse osmosis and distillation treatment systems can be installed to lower high fluoride levels to below the MCL and are certified for this purpose (NSF Standards 53, 58, 62; 2009).
Finally, according to the NSF's Contamination Reduction Claims Guide, both distillation and reverse osmosis can reduce fluoride below 2.0 mg/L.
Substance EPA Maximum Contaminant Level Effective Product Technologies
Fluoride 2.0 mg/L Distillation, Reverse Osmosis
If a filtration system is NSF compliant, it will list the Performance Claims. Performance claims list what is filtered out, and at what level.
Example performance claims from Krystal Pure™ Reverse Osmosis Systems KR5 - KR10 - KR15 (PDF)
Should fluoride be removed?
The question then becomes, is it really worth it to remove the fluoride?
According to the Annual Drinking Water Quality Report issued by my local water utility (which I can't link to, since it's a physical document that gets mailed out).
According to the United States Centers for Disease Control, fluoride is very effective in preventing cavities when present in drinking water at levels that range from 0.8 to 1.2 mg/L (parts per million). Our fluoride addition facility is designed and operated to meet this optimal range.
Later in the document they list all the contaminates, and at what level they were measured.
Metals, Inorganics Physical Tests Violation Date of Sample Level Detected (AVG.) Unit Measurment MCLG MCL
Fluoride, Entry Point No 2011 0.88 mg/L 2.2 2.2
According to this document from the EPA, it would seem the levels of fluoride in my water are actually safe and potentially beneficial.
if you and your child are among the 196 million Americans who receive their water from an
optimally fluoridated community water system (0.7 to 1.2 milligrams per liter) and you follow
guidelines in your child’s tooth brushing, then it is highly unlikely that your child is receiving
too much fluoride.
It also should be noted that with both distillation and reverse osmosis, there is quite a bit of water wasted in the filtering process. Which may be of little concern if the fluoride levels are high, and your health is at stake. In my case, however, the fluoride levels may not be high enough to justify the waste.
Fluoridated water for preparing infant formula
While drinking fluoridated water may not be unhealthy, the CDC warns that using such water to prepare infant formula may lead to dental fluorosis.
Recent evidence suggests that mixing powdered or liquid infant formula concentrate with fluoridated water on a regular basis may increase the chance of a child developing the faint, white markings of very mild or mild enamel fluorosis.
You can use fluoridated water for preparing infant formula. However, if your child is exclusively consuming infant formula reconstituted with fluoridated water, there may be an increased chance for mild dental fluorosis.
After quite a bit of research, I've decided to install a water cooler instead of a filtration system. This will allow me to use non-fluoridated bottled water for drinking, cooking, and infant formula preparation. Bottled water provides the protection level I'm looking for, without the waste associated with reverse osmosis or distillation.