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  The Essential Nature of Fluorine

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By: Otto Wolff, M.D.
 (Original title: Vom Wesen des Fluors. Praxis und Wissenscliaft 1996; 1: 2/21-5. English by A. R. Meuss, HL, MTA.)

Ever since it was found in human teeth, fluorine has been considered important, particularly for healthy teeth. The literature on the subject is overwhelming. Yet while it is accepted that the incidence of caries is reduced as the natural fluorine content of drinking water increases (up to c. 0.8 mg/1), opinions differ on whether it is necessary to give additional fluorine to ensure healthy teeth, and the discussion tends to be emotional rather than objective. Even if we accept that fluorine gives healthy teeth, the questions still have to be asked: does the significance and influence of this element go beyond the teeth, and what is the general effect on the whole human being? Fluorine is also found in bone, though in smaller quantities, which is why the clinical use of fluorine for osteoporosis has been under discussion. Extensive statistics have again yielded contradictory findings, and there is a constant demand for further investigations.(1)

To begin with, therefore, we will consider the essential nature of the element and the differences shown by its compounds.

Fluorine is the first of the four halogens (fluorine, chlorine, bromine, iodine) on the right side of the periodic table.

Its occurrence is significant. The other halogens occur in relatively low concentrations, though they are widespread all over the earth's surface. Fluorine occurs only rarely and essentially only in fluorine-containing mineral springs, but then in high concentration. The water always comes from great depths. Fluorine thus does not come from the uppermost strata of the earth where life is able to develop but "belongs" to the deep strata where death reigns, despite the fact that it is lighter than the other halogens.

The commonest fluorine compound is fluorite or fluor spar, CaF2, a calcium compound that frequently accompanies quartz minerals. Fluorite presents as large, handsome crystals in a range of colors. These are primarily cubic, image of the earth, but may also occur as octahedrons, which is the cubic element at a higher level.

Only this calcium fluoride mineral is called fluorite; all other fluorine salts are known as fluorides, e.g. sodium fluoride, amine fluoride.

A rare mineral is cryolite, Na3AlF6. Large deposits of it originally found in Greenland have largely disappeared with the mineral being used as a source for aluminum. Fluorine thus occurs in concentrated form in the polar region, where eternal cold reigns, and no life is found. Krill, or "animal plankton," accordingly have a remarkably high fluorine content. These are small crustaceans, found only in polar waters, that provide the basic food for whalebone or right whales, penguins, seals and other animals. Extreme quantities of fluorine accumulate in the krill skeleton, i.e. in definitively dead matter (up to 4 g/kg dry weight), and not in the flesh. This, however, contains so many enzymes that the carapaces are completely dissolved a short time after the creatures have died. Anything caught at sea and not used for human consumption is processed into fish meal, with the result that uncontrolled amounts of fluorine end up in eggs, chicken, pork and trout.

A strange phenomenon occurs when fluorite is put under UV light. Fluorescence results because the invisible UV light is transformed into visible light. It might be mentioned in passing that very many carcinogens are also fluorescent and can be detected because of this. This does not permit us to say that fluorite is carcinogenic (amber, for instance, is also fluorescent). The issue is much more complex. It is evident, however, that fluorine is capable of influencing the utilization of light and this may be highly problematical, as it touches on the very basis of life (plants transform light into life in photosynthesis; humans and animals, too, must work with light in subtle ways). Fluorine got its name, by the way, because early metallurgists noted that adding fluorite to the melt would make the mass flow better (fluorine flux).

The story of how fluorine was discovered is also highly characteristic. Hydrofluoric acid, HF, and its salts were produced as early as the beginning of the 18th Century, but the element itself was not discovered until much later. Many scientists fell victim to it in their endeavors to isolate the "extremely aggressive" element, the actions of which were known to them, were poisoned, became invalids and even died of it. It finally proved possible to isolate elementary fluorine by electrolysis at -23 degree C in 1886. Electrolysis is still practically the only method of obtaining it. In anthropomorphic terms we might say with some justification (for we are here considering the action on human beings) that the element resisted discovery as hard as it could.

Today, fluorine has been fully investigated and is widely used. Its properties go to extremes in almost every respect, which makes it the most unusual and the most dangerous element. A few of the many extreme reactions may serve to illustrate this, and an attempt will be made to gain access to the essential nature of the element from a completely different point of view, considering its occurrence, properties and significance for the whole human being (not only the teeth), which might then also provide indications for its clinical use.

The following experiment can tell us a great deal. All halogens combine with hydrogen to produce acids, with HI the weakest and HF the strongest. Iodine does not easily combine with hydrogen. Nothing happens if the two elements are brought together, but light, or a single spark, will cause an explosive reaction resulting in the compound. If, however, liquid hydrogen and solid fluorine are combined under conditions of extreme cold, where practically all reaction ceases, the explosion will occur even in the dark, requiring no activation, at temperatures as low as -235 degree C, and a flame is produced. No "help" is needed to combine with another element, fluorine being itself full of energy. This is the reason why it is so aggressive towards other elements. This is also why fluorine does not occur in native form and forms compounds with practically all elements in the periodic table, including the noble gases.

The enormous heat energy generated by fluorine on combustion may be seen from the following table:

Hydrogen + oxygen    yields 2800°C Acetylene + oxygen    yields 3500°C Fluorine + hydrogen   yields 3700°C

Because of these high energies, fluorine is also an attractive proposition in rocket technology.

What does it mean, however, when we say that fluorine combines with almost all elements? The term "noble" or "precious" was applied to people, animals or substances that did not easily or frequently unite with others, but only with a few, people who were reticent and had an inner strength that made them unassailable. Thus a king would be a nobleman, and gold, the king of metals, is the epitome of unassailable, noble or precious metals. The same applies to precious stones, which are clear and pure. Someone who would unite with anyone and everyone, being aggressive and brutal into the bargain, would always be considered "common."

Fluorine, thus, may be seen to hold the lead among non-precious substances, and at the same time to be the one with the greatest energy, i.e. the strongest. The combination of non-preciousness and extreme strength makes it dangerous.

Fluorine and life
Fluorine is not only the element with the greatest energy but also the most powerful oxidizing agent. It will displace oxygen from hot water, being more powerful, which results in highly aggressive fluoric acid (HF) being produced (H2O + 2F = 2HF + 0). The grotesque situation is that oxygen is released during this "combustion process." Evidently oxygen does not exactly give up its "accustomed" place on the hydrogen with alacrity - it has to yield to another who is stronger or, we might say, more brutal.

What does this signify? Surely no less than that fluorine is able to transform water, the typical vehicle for life, into the highly toxic fluoric acid.

What does oxidation signify? Combustion above all but also, in a wider sense, a killing process.

Essentially, plants grow because they take up light, which is based on a reduction process, whereas the vital processes of humans and animals are oxidative. Put more accurately, biologic life is killed by oxidation processes, but this provides the basis for life in soul and spirit. This is not generally realized today. People only see the "free radicals" that ultimately kill biologic life. Factually, this is correct; but if these processes go in the right direction, they also allow the life of mind and soul to develop.

Little attention has been paid to the role fluorine plays in modem chemotherapy. Many cortisone derivatives have a fluorine atom in the B ring of the steroid structure, and this enhances their effect quite considerably.

We can understand this antiinflammatory action if we consider the relationship fluorine has to cold. The connection to the earth that goes hand in hand with this is utilized in psychotropic drugs. Among neuroleptics, all butyrophenones, e.g. haloperidol, have a fluorine atom on the phenyl group. (The CF3 radical is common in other basic structures.) Hallucinations reflecting a partial excamation process are a specific indication here, with fluorine undoubtedly helping to "earth" the patient symptomatically. At the same level, we have the action of Fluoride - The Aging Factor.(2)

Fluorine dissolves glass
In this context, it is interesting to note that fluorine and fluoric acid can "dissolve" glass and are, therefore, used in etching. Even quartz, much harder than glass, is dissolved by fluoric acid. This means that a precious stone (most precious stones are quartz colored by traces of metals) is destroyed by non-precious fluorine, which seems to be stronger. We may say that something of the essential nature of the substance shows itself here, but we also have to realize that in nature both elementary fluorine and fluoric acid are controlled by calcium, and the aggressive forms are produced or released by human manipulation.

Most fluorine salts are soluble, which gives the impression that calcium is practically the only, or at least the "physiologic" element to "tame" fluorine.

A characteristic phenomenon to be mentioned in relation to this is the solubility of silver halogens, which at 18 degree C in 100 ml of water is as follows:
AgF         195.4 g
AgCl         0.00015 g
AgBr        0.00001 g
Agl          0.0000005 g
Again, it is evident that the step from F to Cl is infinitely greater than that from Cl to Br or Br to I. (AgF is more than a million times more soluble than AgCl, which is only 10 times more soluble than AgBr.) We may add that aluminum fluoride is also easily soluble, which is due to the fact that aluminum may be seen to be similar to silver, though we need not go into detail here. Unlike silver, aluminum compounds are widely used in foods and drugs, and with the mutual support they give each other in solubility this may mean their unrecognized intake by humans. This may have consequences in pathology, for one issue that is quite rightly being considered is that the extremely hard aluminum protein silicates found in the brain of patients with Alzheimer's disease cause the pathologic condition by blocking physiologic brain functions. Fluorine may play a role in this, as it makes aluminum, much used in kitchen utensils and medicines, highly soluble.(3)

Fluorine in technology
Calcium, as we have seen, is able to tame fluorine, and this is even more so in the case of carbon. No one would think that a nontoxic, well-tolerated compound contains the most aggressive of elements. Yet that is the case, for instance, with dichloro difluoromethane (CCI2F2), for decades considered completely safe and used as a coolant (frigen) in refrigerators, until it was found that its destructive powers only took effect in the stratosphere, where they destroy the ozone layer.

Fluorine, once again, goes to extremes, being on the one hand safe and well tolerated - admitted in the bound state - and on the other becoming extremely aggressive later on in a different place.

The element also plays a significant role in the production of fissionable material. Hexafluorite is needed to separate 235U from 238U and enrich it. Without this separating process, which depends on fluorine, the atom bomb and nuclear reactors might not have been feasible.

A remarkable feature is the way fluorine reacts with pure carbon, a reaction not seen with any other element. The reaction is exothermic, causing red heat, and produces CF4. All hydrocarbons and other carbon compounds, too, are destroyed, producing only HF and CF4.

More recently, relatively new carbon and fluorine compounds have gained practical significance in everyday life. Teflon is a compound similar to polyethylene in which all hydrogen atoms have been replaced by fluorine, so that we have concentrated fluorine "tamed" by carbon. Applications include the coating of frying pans which makes them extremely practical. Food can be fried without fat, nothing will stick, and they are easy to clean. Other fluorocarbons, above all polytetrafluoro ethylenes (PTFE) are widely used in chemical fibers that are both light and have excellent insulating qualities, are moisture-repellent and acid-resistant. These fabrics also retain their elasticity irrespective of the temperature and do not grow friable in the cold (coping with temperatures ranging from -240 degrees C to +270 degrees C). These are outstanding qualities for textiles and shoes, which are marked under trade names such as Gore-Tex.

The problems that arise have so far attracted little attention. When the clothes are no longer needed they end up as garbage and are burned, which produces HC1 from widely-used PVCs (polyvinyl chlorides). The ecological consequences are known, but no action is taken. Combustion of PTFE products yields the much more toxic and aggressive fluoric acid. These products are still very new, but once they are "thrown away," i.e. burnt, this will inevitably cause major environmental pollution, compared to which hydrochloric acid production from PVC is like lemon-flavored water. We may give the manufacturers the benefit of the doubt as far as awareness is concerned. It seems that no one feels concern over the safe disposal of these products.

All halogens are more or less toxic, fluorine extremely so. The difference from chlorine is great, that from "harmless" iodine enormous. A characteristic property of all halogens is their disinfectant action, especially relating to lower forms of life such as bacteria. Iodine is widely used for this purpose (aqueous iodine or Lugol's solution), being practically nontoxic to humans. A genuinely toxic effect for higher life forms begins only with bromine and is greater with elementary chlorine. Its soluble salt acts as a preservative even in concentrated form (common salt, sodium chloride), i.e. has disinfectant properties. The action of fluorine and its compounds is not limited to lower life but extends to all spheres of life so that practically all enzymes, vital active principles, are blocked by it.

Fluorine and thinking activity
This also helps us to understand the action in the human organism. The highest concentration of fluorine is found in dental enamel, which is the hardest tissue in humans. It limits further dentine development, whereas animal teeth are capable of further growth (the upper second of elephants being an extreme case; it is used to assess the age of the animal). Hardness is probably not the prune purpose of dental enamel, for this has the negative aspect of growth being limited by fluorine (blocking enzymes). Essentially this is also a spiritual matter, for the human being is meant to come to a conclusion, e.g. achieving exact definition (finis = end), and this gives our thinking its specific quality.

The relationship between quality of thinking and the condition of the teeth has been known for some time, but it was not understood. Relevant work was therefore no longer quoted and thus forgotten. It would need to be presented in a separate paper.

Much is made today of reports stating that experiments have shown animals to be capable of thought. This is a serious misunderstanding or may even be a deliberate attempt to mislead. It is true that animals, when young, are capable of making certain associations, even without being taught to do so. Association is, however, the simplest and indeed most primitive mental activity, in the extreme case even computers are capable of it. The essential nature of thinking is, however, creative; and neither animals nor computers are capable of this. Thinking can take many forms, though today it is used in rather one-sided, intellectual fashion. This needs a conclusion, and physiologically this is given in the enamel setting a limit to the dentine in a tooth, which requires fluorine. This same principle applies to the whole organism.

In practice, this means that with excess fluorine made available in absolute or relative terms more of the characterized qualities enter into the human being. This will limit the whole of his biologic life (not only of the teeth), not only causing general hardening but also influencing the quality of thinking, which must then go more in the direction of all that it dead, earthly, mineral and non-precious. The outcome of this is technology with all its achievements, including the atom bomb, environmental pollution, etc. Other, typically human qualities, missions and achievements in art, morality, wisdom and so forth literally vanish in the face of this or are considered "unimportant" and neglected.

This is not to say that we should reject technology as such. The intention is merely to show that it is a one-sided development. This is always a danger, and it may be enhanced as fluorine insidiously enters more and more into all spheres of life.

The old saying "You are what you eat" could also be taken to apply very much in the case of fluorine.

1 Wolff 0. Zur Osteoporose - Grundlage eines neuen Konzeptes zur Pathologie und Therapie. Erfahrungsheilkunde 1995, pp. 563-7.
2 Xiamouyiannis J. Fluoride - The Aging Factor. Delaware Ohio 1983.
3 Wolff 0. The essential nature of Alzheimer's disease. Tr. A. R. Meuss. Journal of Anthroposophic Medicine 1994; 11:9-19.

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