- The Use of Fluorine within Advanced Cultures
- By:Stephanie Larkin Larkin
Many people working outside the field of chemistry do not realize that much of what we touch everyday contains a fluorine compound. Fluorine is a versatile element that has unique bonding properties and is also very stable. This makes it ideal for inclusion in a number of products. Industrialized and developing cultures use fluorides to create new products and maintain a better quality of life.
The Chemistry of Fluorine
Fluorine is the ninth element on the periodic table. In its pure form, it is a toxic, dingy yellow gas. However, it is highly reactive with other substances and forms compounds with little resistance. It is also the most electronegative element. This means it can combine with positive compounds to form fluorides.
A fluoride is usually described as any compound that contains fluorine. These reduced forms of fluorine are used in technology research in a number of fields. Many scientists find that its uses continue to expand, making it one of several elements important to forward progress.
Though fluorine is toxic to humans, derivatives like sodium fluoride are popular in many hygiene products. Sodium fluoride in particular is often used in the realm of dentistry. It helps clean teeth and strengthens tooth enamel, and it is found in toothpaste and other oral health products as well.
Fluorine compounds are not only found in products for teeth. They are essential to many other kinds of medicine. Fluorine that has been bonded with carbon creates a very stable gas. Fluorocarbons are often used as additives in anesthesia to make it less explosive and safer for use during surgery. The chemical properties of the element also make it exceptional for bonding with other substances. It is often experimented with during the synthesis of drugs. Some estimate that it is present in some form in over 20% of all pharmaceuticals. Fluorine compounds make up antibiotics, steroids, antifungal medicines, and even antidepressants. Fluorides are also found in the most effective drugs for the treatment of HIV.
Fluoridated Drinking Water
Water purification is one of the many basic advantages of living in an advanced culture. In the 20th century, many governments decided to start supplementing the drinking water they provide with fluorides in order to control tooth decay among the general population. The decision on whether to implement fluoridation in major cities in the United States is left up to the local government. However, there are very few municipal water treatment plants that do not practice fluoridation, and every major city in the country has opted in. About 67% of all Americans receive fluoridated water from their tap.
Despite its focus on the well being of the general population, many people are opposed to the fluoridation of water by the government. They cite lack in substantial research, cost effectiveness, supposed health risks, and an unwillingness to submit to mass medication as reasons to oppose the additives. Some developed countries have abandoned the practice.
There is no greater goal for an advanced culture than feeding its citizens. Advances in agricultural technology over the last few centuries have made it possible for populations to explode. Part of the large bump in efficiency in growing crops is due in part to the use of fluorides in fertilizers and pesticides. Furthermore, the byproduct of making these substances for farmers is hydrofluoric acid. This waste is in turn synthesized into other fluorides like sodium fluoride.
There are a host of innovative technologies that owe their existence in some part to fluorine. For instance, most non-stick surfaces, like Teflon on cookware, are made possible by fluoropolymers. These polymers are also used in surgical implants. Fluorides are also essential to desilylation during organic synthesis. This means that they are reagents that can remove silicon from compounds in order to make them more pure. This obviously has many implications in the discipline of organic science.
Hydrofluoric acid is commonly used to etch glass, purify aluminum and uranium, and to increase the strength of car cleaners. Though it can be highly corrosive, it is essential to thousands of products.
Effects on Civilization
Similar to other periodic elements, fluorine exists within the natural world, but can be manipulated in order to contribute to technology. Its usefulness continues to grow each day as slews of scientists search for new applications of fluorides.
It is hard to imagine what the modern world would look like without fluorine and its main derivatives. All of its contributions to advanced technology are valuable, but its role in medicine is by far most beneficial to modern society.