––W.N., Mequon, WI
Dr. Wright: It is true that most instant tea (the kind that comes in tea bags) does contain some fluoride. In fact, according to a study published last year in the American Journal of Medicine, some brands contain nearly 7 parts per million (ppm). To put that in perspective, consider that the maximum level of fluoride “allowed” in drinking water by the Environmental Protection Agency is 4 ppm.
“Allowed” or not, even that much isn’t safe for human consumption, so the amount present in some teas is indeed cause for concern.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that this study came about as a result of one woman’s experience in developing skeletal fluorosis after drinking two gallons of instant tea per day—hardly an amount recommended by even the staunchest tea advocates.
Of course, there have been countless studies done proving the health benefits of tea, so it really comes down to weighing the risks vs. the benefits. Some brands of tea are lower in fluoride than others. Schnucks’ instant tea (a store-brand from the Midwestern-based supermarket chain Schnucks) appears to be the lowest on the list the researchers compiled, with an average fluoride content of 1.3 parts per million. Lipton naturally decaffeinated flow-through bags and Nestea have around 2 parts per million.
If you want to avoid the fluoride altogether, you may prefer to use green tea extracts instead of teabags. Check with your local natural food store or vitamin shop to see if they carry green tea extract.
If not, there are numerous sources available on the Internet. Just visit an Internet search engine such as google.com and type “green tea extract” into the search field: You’ll get hundreds of results to choose from.
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