The Essential Nature of Fluorine

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By: Otto Wolff, M.D.

Adapted with kind permission from the Journal of Anthroposophical Medicine, Vol. 13, Nr. 4, 1996

Hydrofluoric acid and its salts were produced as early as the beginning of the 18th century, but the element fluorine itself was not discovered until much later. In their en­deavors to isolate this "extremely ag­gressive" element many scientists fell victim to it. It poisoned or sickened them, and occasionally even caused their death. Eventually in 1886 they succeeded by isolating elementary fluorine by elec­trolysis. This is still practically the only method of obtaining it. In anthropomorphic terms we might say that the ele­ment resisted dis­covery as hard as it could. How­ever, once dis­covered, fluoride was considered vital to many areas including dental health.

The Halogens
Fluorine is the first of four halo­gens (iodine, bromine, chlorine, fluo­rine) on the right side of the periodic table. Its occurrence is significant. The other halogens occur in relatively low concentrations, but are wide spread over the earth's surface. Fluorine oc­curs in high concentration in fluorine-containing mineral springs that rise up out of great depths. Fluorine is not at home on the surface of the earth where life abounds; it 'belongs' to deeper, lifeless strata even though it is lighter than the other halogens. Polar regions, eternally cold, possess fluoride in es­pecially concentrated form.

All halogens are toxic. A charac­teristic property is their deadening ef­fect, especially on lower life forms such as bacteria. Iodine, the least harm­ful, is widely used as a disinfectant. Bromine and more so chlorine are toxic to higher life forms as well. Fluorine and its compounds is stron­ger still; its poisonous effect extends to all spheres of life. All active vital principles are blocked by it.

The most common fluorine compound is called fluorite or fluor spar, CaF2, a calcium com­pound that fre­quently accom­panies quartz minerals. Fluo­rite has large, of­ten cubic crystals in a range of col­ors, but it can also occur as octahedrons, (the cubic, earth, element at a higher level). When fluorite is put under invisible UV light, the light becomes visible, an ability fluorite shares with certain carcino­gens.

Fluorine in Technology
Today, fluorine has been thor­oughly investigated and is widely ap­plied. Its properties are extreme in al­most every respect, which makes it a most unusual and dangerous element. An attempt will be made to illustrate this, to gain access to its essential nature.

A remarkable feature is the way fluorine reacts with pure carbon. Recently, relatively new carbon and fluorine compounds have gained great practical significance in everyday life. Teflon(R) is a compound similar to polyethylene in which all hydrogen atoms have been replaced by a 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 light, moisture repellent, acid resis­tant, with excellent insulating qualities. These fabrics retain their elasticity irrespective of temperature; outstanding qualities for textiles and shoes. They are marketed under trade names such as Gore-Tex(R).

Problems arising have so far attracted little attention. Dis­carded clothes are burned as garbage. Combustion of PTFE prod­ucts yields a much more toxic and aggressive fluoric acid.

These products are still very new, but eventually their de­struction will cause major environmental pollution. By compari­son hydrochloric acid production from PVC is like 'lemon-fla­vored water.' It seems that no one yet feels concern over the safe disposal of these products.

Fluorine and Thinking
In the human being the highest concentration of fluorine is found in dental enamel, the hardest tissue in the body. Dentine limits further tooth development. Essentially this is also a spiri­tual matter, for the human being is meant to come to a conclu­sion, i.e. achieve exact definition (finis = end), which gives our thinking its specific quality.

The relationship between the quality of thinking and the condition of the teeth has been known for some time, but is little understood. Thinking can take many forms, but today it is often one-sidedly hardened and intellectual. Other, typically human, qualities such as a sense of mission, achievements in art, moral­ity, wisdom and so forth literally vanish or are considered un­important and neglected. One-sided development is always a danger and we must be concerned as insidious fluorine enters more and more into all aspects of our life.


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