What is fluorine?
Fluorine is a highly corrosive and reactive gas. It is not a compound but a chemical element belonging to the halogens. With the atomic number 9, it is the lightest halogen. In nature, fluorine occurs mainly in the form of its salts, the fluorides.
The gas fluorine is not very stable and reacts with almost all compounds and elements immediately after its production. Only with the noble gases helium and neon no reaction takes place. This extraordinarily strong reactivity can be explained by its very strong affinity for electrons. It always withdraws electrons from its reactants, making it the strongest oxidant. The name fluorine is derived from the Latin "fluores" (river). As calcium fluoride (fluorspar) it serves as a flux of ores.
When adding fluorspar to ores, it lowers their melting point, making them run faster. From the conceptual there is in medicine for the bloodless discharge of secretions from the female genitalia the expression fluor genitalis. However, fluor genitalis must not be confused with the element fluorine.
Function, effect & tasks
Fluorine is called an essential trace element. However, this meaning of fluorine is controversial. It is known that fluorides have protective properties against the teeth. Fluorides can strengthen teeth while inhibiting certain caries bacteria enzymes that cause carbohydrate breakdown.
The fluorides act directly on the tooth. Oral intake of fluoride has no effect on the teeth. The teeth mainly consist of the mineral hydroxyapatite. Hydroxylapatite is vulnerable to acids produced by the breakdown of food residues. With poor dental hygiene, therefore, there are often holes in the teeth, which are still occupied by caries bacteria. If, for example, the toothpaste contains fluorides, there is an exchange of hydroxyl ions for fluoride ions. This produces fluoroapatite, which proves to be a harder material and less vulnerable to acids. Thus, even hydroxyapatite dissolved by acids can be precipitated again as fluoroapatite in the presence of fluorides.
An incipient destruction can thus be reversed. But also for the structure of the bones, fluorides have positive properties. Here the intake takes place orally. For example, children and infants are given fluoride and vitamin D for the purpose of rickets prophylaxis. However, fluorides should not be overdosed to prevent fluorosis from stiffening and thickening of the joints. Fluorine compounds are also approved as drugs in osteoporosis. The corresponding tablets contain sodium fluoride or disodium fluorophosphate.
Education, occurrence, properties & optimal values
Fluorine is found in the form of fluorides in black and green tea, in asparagus or in fish. Many salts are fluoride-containing. Pure fluorine salts do not exist because of the low solubility of fluoride-containing compounds in water. Flax spatter (calcium fluoride) and fluorapatite are most common in the earth's crust.
Fluorine is mainly made from calcium fluoride. There are even organisms that can produce fluoroorganic compounds. Thus, the South African gifblaar or plants of the genus Dichapetalum can synthesize fluoroacetic acid against predators. The human organism has a need of 0.25-0.35 mg daily.
Diseases & Disorders
However, in connection with fluorine poisoning and health problems are more common. As already mentioned, pure fluorine is a very poisonous corrosive gas. That makes it so difficult to produce fluorine.
Since it reacts with almost all materials, it can also be stored and transported very badly. In the case of poisoning with fluorine, burns and burns occur in the lungs, on the skin and in the eye. Depending on the dose it comes within a short time to dissolve the corresponding organs with fatal consequences. The lethal dose is very low and is 185 ppm. Fluorine poisoning with pure fluorine will rarely occur because the gas is not stable. However, poisoning with hydrogen fluoride is similarly dangerous. Hydrogen fluoride forms hydrogen bonds with the proteins in the body, destroying the tertiary structure of the proteins. There is a denaturation of body protein instead.
Fluorides can form complex compounds with aluminum ions, which act similarly to phosphates. In the body, these compounds interfere with the phosphorylation reactions. Among other things, it comes to the deregulation of G proteins, whereby many enzymes are inhibited. For this reason alone, an increased dose of fluorides is not tolerated by the body. If too much fluoride-containing tablets are taken, it can also cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The fluorides react with the gastric acid, forming hydrofluoric acid to a small extent. This attacks the mucous membranes. A chronic mild overdose of fluorides may cause fluorosis.
Fluorosis is chronic fluorine poisoning with changes in the structure of the enamel, coughing, sputum and respiratory distress. In the teeth, too much hydroxyapatite transforms into fluorapatite. The teeth become brittle. The bones also change due to the excessive formation of fluorapatite. It comes to the slow stiffening and remodeling of the bones. In addition, the enzyme enolase is inhibited.