The woman consumed a pitcher of tea a day, made with about 100 tea bags, for the last 17 years. She experienced pain in her lower back, arms, legs, and hips for the last five years. When she saw a doctor for the symptoms, x-rays showed areas of dense bone on her spinal vertebrae and calcification of ligaments in her arm.
Originally, her doctors feared that she had cancer, but further study showed that she had a rare condition called skeletal fluorosis, which is caused by consuming too much fluoride. The patient's blood levels of fluoride were four times the normal level.
Skeletal fluorosis is common in parts of India and China, where fluoride levels in the water are naturally high. While U.S. water does contain fluoride, which was added to prevent cavities, the levels are not high enough to cause skeletal fluorosis. However, tea naturally contains fluoride, so drinking large amounts of it could lead to the disease.
The kidneys eliminate excess fluoride from the body, but consuming too much of the mineral can cause it to form crystal deposits on the bone. The patient has stopped drinking tea, and is beginning to see a reduction of symptoms.