Abstract for TR-393

Toxicology and Carcinogenesis Studies of Sodium Fluoride in F344/N Rats and B6C3F1 Mice (Drinking Water Studies)

CASRN: 7681-49-4
Chemical Formula: NaF
Molecular Weight: 41.99
Report Date: December 1990

Full Report PDF


Sodium fluoride is a white, crystalline, water-soluble powder used in municipal water fluoridation systems, in various dental products, and in a variety of industrial applications. Toxicology and carcinogenesis studies were conducted with F344/N rats and B6C3F1 mice of each sex by incorporating sodium fluoride into the drinking water in studies lasting14 days, 6 months, and 2 years. In addition, genetic toxicology studies were performed with Salmonella typhimurium, with mouse L5178Y cells, and with Chinese hamster ovary cells.

Fourteen-day studies

Rats and mice received sodium fluoride in drinking water at concentrations as high as 800 ppm. (Concentrations are expressed as sodium fluoride; fluoride ion is 45% of the sodium salt by weight.) In the high-dose groups, 5/5 male and 5/5 female rats and 2/5 male mice died; one female rat was given 400 ppm in the drinking water also died before the end of the studies. No gross lesions were attributed to sodium fluoride administration.

Six-month studies

Rats received concentrations of sodium fluoride in drinking water as high as 300 ppm, and mice as high as 600 ppm. No rats died during the studies; however, among the mice, 4/9 high-dose males, 9/11 high-dose females, and 1/8 males in the 300 ppm group died before the end of the studies. Weight gains were less than those of controls for rats receiving 300 ppm and mice receiving 200 to 600 ppm.

The teeth of rats and mice receiving the higher doses of sodium fluoride were chalky white and chipped or showed unusual wear patterns. Mice and male rats given the higher concentrations had microscopic focal degeneration of the enamel organ. Rats receiving 100 or 300 ppm sodium fluoride had minimal hyperplasia of the gastric mucosa of the stomach, and one high-dose rat of each sex had an ulcer. Acute nephrosis and/or lesions in the liver and myocardium were observed in mice that died early, and minimal alterations in bone growth/remodeling were observed in the long bones of mice receiving sodium fluoride at concentrations of 50 to 600 ppm.

The sodium fluoride concentrations selected for the 2-year studies in both rats and mice were 0, 25, 100, and 175 ppm in the drinking water. These concentrations were selected based on the decreased weight gain of rats at 300 ppm and of mice at 200 ppm and above, on the incidence of gastric lesions in rats at 300 ppm in the 6-month studies, and on the absence of significant toxic effects at sodium fluoride concentrations as high as 100 ppm in an earlier 2-year study.

Two-year studies

Body weights and survival

Mean body weights of dosed and control groups of rats and mice were similar throughout the 2-year studies. Survival of rats and mice was not affected by sodium fluoride administration. Survival rates after 2 years were: male rats-control, 42/80; 25 ppm, 25/51; 100 ppm, 23/50; 175 ppm, 42/80; female rats-59/80; 31/50; 34/50; 54/81; male mice-58/79; 39/50; 37/51; 65/80; female mice-53/80; 38/52; 34/50; 52/80.

Neoplastic and nonneoplastic effects

The teeth of rats and mice has a dose-dependent whitish discoloration, and male rats had an increased incidence of tooth deformities and attrition leading on occasion to malocclusion. The teeth of male and, to a lesser degree, female rats had areas of microscopic dentine dysplasia and degeneration of ameloblasts. Dentine dysplasia occurred in both dosed and control groups of male and female mice; the incidence of this lesion was significantly greater in high-dose than in control male mice. Osteosclerosis of long bones was increased in female rats given drinking water containing 175 ppm sodium fluoride. No other significant nonneoplastic lesions in rats or mice appeared related to sodium fluoride administration.

Osteosarcomas of bone were observed in 1/50 male rats in the 100 ppm group and in 3/80 male rats in the 175 ppm group. None were seen in the control or 25 ppm dose groups. One other 175 ppm male rat had an extra skeletal osteosarcoma arising in the subcutaneous tissue. Osteosarcomas occur in historical control male rats at an incidence of 0.5% (range 0-6%). The historical incidence is not directly comparable with the incidences observed in this study because examination of bone was more comprehensive in the sodium fluoride studies than in previous NTP studies of other chemicals, and the diet used in previous studies was not controlled for fluoride content. In the current study, although the pairwise comparison of the incidence in the 175 ppm group versus that in the controls was not statistically significant, osteosarcomas occurred with a statistically significant dose-response trend, leading to the conclusion that a weak association may exist between the occurrence of these neoplasms and the administration of sodium fluoride. No other neoplastic lesions in rats or mice were considered possibly related to chemical administration.

Genetic toxicology

Sodium fluoride was negative for gene mutation induction in Salmonella typhimurium strains TA100, TA1535, TA1537, and TA98 with and without S9. In two laboratories, sodium fluoride was tested for induction of trifluorothymidine resistance in mouse L5178Y lymphoma cells; results were positive both with and without S9. Sodium fluoride was tested for cytogenetic effects in Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells in two laboratories. In the first laboratory, the sister chromatid exchange (SCE) test was negative with and without S9, and the chromosomal aberration (Abs) test was positive in the absence of S9; in the second laboratory, the SCE test was positive with and without S9, but no induction of Abs was observed. The laboratory that reported a negative result for Abs tested at doses below that shown to be positive at the other laboratory. Similarly, the positive SCE result was obtained at a higher dose and longer harvest time than used by the laboratory reporting the negative SCE response.


Under the conditions of these 2-year dosed water studies, there was equivocal evidence of carcinogenic activity of sodium fluoride in male F344/N rats, based on the occurrence of a small number of osteosarcomas in dosed animals. "Equivocal evidence" is a category for uncertain findings defined as studies that are interpreted as showing a marginal increase of neoplasms that may be related to chemical administration. There was no evidence of carcinogenic activity in female F344/N rats receiving sodium fluoride at concentrations of 25, 100, or 175 ppm (11, 45, or 79 ppm fluoride) in drinking water for 2 years. There was no evidence of carcinogenic activity of sodium fluoride in male or female mice receiving sodium fluoride at concentrations of 25, 100, or 175 ppm in drinking water for 2 years.

Dosed rats had lesions typical of fluorosis of the teeth and female rats receiving drinking water containing 175 ppm sodium fluoride had increased osteosclerosis of long bones.