About the blog: What Things Are Made Of
AMERICA'S GLOBAL DEPENDENCY FOR NEARLY EVERYTHING
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Cooking, cleaning, cooling
Where does it go? Most fluorine goes to make hydrofluoric acid, critical in aluminum and uranium processing. And hydrofluoric acid is the feedstock for all fluorine-bearing chemicals, and this is where fluorine ends up in homes.
Teflon in non-stick cookware and Freon in air-conditioning systems are brand names for fluorinated compounds. Then there’s fluoride in toothpaste and municipal water systems, not as a communist plot but to alleviate tooth decay because fluorine in the crystal structure of calcium phosphate (the mineral making bones and teeth) is stronger than otherwise.
Enamel coating your stove almost certainly contains fluorine. Glass and steel manufacture demand it, as does cement production.
Where does the U.S. get fluorspar? Most imports (52% in recent years) come from world production leader China. Another 34% is imported from Mexico, with South Africa a distant third as a U.S. fluorspar supplier.
Photo of fluorite from Cave-in-Rock by Richard Gibson