AIMS: Due to new evidence on fluoride neurotoxicity during early life, this study examined maternal exposure to fluoride through tea consumption in a low-fluoride region and measured fluoride releases from commercially available teas (tea bags and loose teas) to determine the need to limit fluoride exposure.
METHODS: Maternal urine fluoride (MUF) concentrations were measured in spot urine samples (N=118) from first-trimester pregnant women and in prepared tea infusions made with deionised water from 33 brand teas and 57 loose-tea products, as determined by the direct method of using a fluoride-selective electrode.
RESULTS: The fluoride concentration in the local drinking water supplies ranged from 0.10 to 0.18 mg/L, and the creatinine-adjusted MUF ranged from 0.09 to 1.57 mg/L. Seventeen per cent of the women were daily tea drinkers, and their MUFs were higher than those with no consumption (p=0.002). The fluoride concentration from tea bags ranged from 0.34 to 2.67 mg/L, while loose teas showed 0.72-4.50 mg/L (black), 0.56-1.58 mg/L (oolong), 1.28-1.50 mg/L (green), and 0.33-1.17 mg/L (white tea).
CONCLUSIONS: Fluoride exposure among pregnant women increases with tea consumption, with likely risks of developmental neurotoxicity to their children. As the fluoride release from tea varies widely, the fluoride concentration should be indicated on tea packages in order to allow consumers to make informed decisions on minimising their fluoride exposure.