Fluorine Lesson for Kids: What is it Used For?

Instructor: Mary Beth Burns

Mary Beth has taught 1st, 4th and 5th grade and has a specialist degree in Educational Leadership. She is currently an assistant principal.

There are dozens of elements on the periodic table, but what do they do for us in real life? Come and learn about how fluorine is used today and how it has been used in the past.

What is Fluorine?

Chemistry isn't all fun and games, kids. It can actually be quite dangerous, and this was certainly the case when chemists were discovering new elements like fluorine. Sure, fluorine is colorless, odorless and tasteless, but it should not be mistaken as harmless. In 1888, a chemist named Henri Moissan decided that he wanted to see what elements hydrofluoric acid was made of. Hydrofluoric acid is a chemical that is used for cleaning and a few other things. It is also a compound, which means that it's made of two or more chemical elements.

Moissan discovered that one of those elements was fluorine gas, which comes from the Latin word meaning 'flow.' Fluorine got its name because it comes from a mineral called fluorspar. Fluorine gas can be toxic to people, which means that it can make you sick or even kill you.

Fluorine isn't all bad, though. Did you know that fluorine is an element that can form salts? That's right - it is part of the halogen family, along with bromine, chlorine, astatine and iodine. Fluorine is an element in many different compounds that have several real-world uses.

Health & Hygiene

Did you know that you have drank fluorine before? Sodium fluoride (a compound with sodium and fluorine) is in many cities' water. Don't worry, the toxicity of fluorine changes when it joins another element in a compound. There is no scientific research to support that fluoridated water is harmful to you. In fact, it is just the opposite. Adding fluoride to water helps to prevent tooth decay and cavities. Neat! Another cool thing about this is that the fluoride doesn't change the taste of the water.

If fluorine is so good for your teeth, where else do you think you might find it? Toothpaste, of course! Fluorine in toothpaste comes in a variety of compounds, such as sodium fluoride or sodium monofluorophosphate (sodium, oxygen, fluorine and phosphorous).

Fluorine is great for your dental health, which is why it is in toothpaste.
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