This study was conducted to test the hypothesis that physiological changes which occur during aging increase the biological impact of fluoride and reduce the threshold of safe fluoride exposure. Four groups of rats were fed a low-fluoride diet (< 1.2 ppm) ad libitum and received 0, 5, 15, or 50 ppm fluoride in their drinking water. Animals were killed after three, six, 12, or 18 months of treatment. Blood and urine were monitored for biochemical markers of tissue function, and plasma, urine, feces, and representative tissues were analyzed for fluoride. In addition, bone marrow cells from animals killed after 18 months of treatment were examined for frequency of sister chromatid exchange (SCE), a marker of genetic damage. Study results indicated that, within treatment groups, fluoride intake, excretion, and retention did not change significantly between three and 18 months. Fluoride concentration in soft tissues did not change with treatment duration in the fluoride-treated animals. Mineralized tissue fluoride concentration and the total fluoride in the carcasses increased continually as the animals aged. In spite of significant, dose-related differences in tissue fluoride levels which occurred in all age groups in this study, there were no indications that increased fluoride in the tissues caused any adverse physiological or genotoxic effects. None of the monitored clinical "wellness" markers of tissue integrity and function was altered by fluoride in a clinically significant manner. Therefore, there was no evidence from this study that aging reduces the threshold of safe chronic fluoride exposure.
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