Fluorine poem by Janet Kuypers


by Janet Kuypers

of Scars Publications
from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series

Just got a postcard from my dentist
telling me it’s time to schedule
another dental appointment.
I thought about the fluoride toothpaste
I just changed to, and then
I wondered about water fluoridation,
the government adds fluoride
to public water supplies, you know,
to reduce tooth decay and hopefully
prevent cavities. Hmmm,
how much water would I have to drink
so I wouldn’t have to go to the dentist
so regularly?
Wait a minute, I just read that
for the fluoride to work, it has to remain
in contact with the teeth, so fluoride ions
that are swallowed won’t help.

Maybe I should just gargle with water more.

But fluoride is just one of the ionic compounds
of Fluorine, and I thought it was funny
when I found out that the name
for the mineral fluorite is derived
from the Latin word “flow”,
because it was added to metals
to make them flow.

Kind of like water, I suppose,
which we now add flourine to.

But you know, it’s not just teeth
that Fluorine can help…
I mean check this out,
Because of the stability
of the carbon-fluorine bond,
many drugs are fluoridated
to stop their metabolism
and prolong their half-lives
(I always wondered how they made
time-release drugs work..)
And now over twenty percent
of commercial drugs use Fluorine.
I mean, scientists have even used
the radioactive isotope fluorine-18
when performing PET scans —
and it’s amazing that liquid fluorocarbons
can hold gas in solution,
and can even hold
more oxygen and carbon
that our own blood…

Wow, I didn’t realize
how useful Fluorine was
for helping humans out.

But the thing is,
Fluorine’s actually really toxic,
some isotopes are used for insecticides,
and Fluorine attacks the eyes,
lungs, liver and kidneys,
and Hydrofluoric acid
is a pretty nasty contact poison.
Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
have even been strictly regulated
through international agreements
for fear of our environment
and the depletion of the Ozone…
I mean, the U.S. Government
even has a slew of signs
for the dangers of this element:
It’s a toxic gas.
It’s corrosive.
It’s an inhalation hazard.
(wait a minute,
I thought it was so good for me,
how can it also be so bad?)

So too much of Flourine
in the right way
can be devastating for you,
and in other ways
it can help your bones
or help your medication.
Fascinating. I guess this is another way
we have learned to take
the bad with the good
(or is it that we have learned
to take the good out of the bad?).

Maybe I won’t start to gargle with water
because of the Fluorine,
and maybe I should just deal
with everyone’s inherent fear
of the dentist, and just go,
and come out of it
with cleaner teeth
for the next six months…