Henri Moissan of France
Necessary for all life.
Named from the Latin word meaning “to flow”, fluorine is a corrosive, pale yellow gas. It is the most reactive of all the elements, so much so that a jet of fluorine gas streamed over wood or rubber would cause either to burst into flame. Its very active chemistry makes fluorine useful in many products, such as polymers, pesticides, antibiotics and toothpastes. Teflon, the non-stick polymer, is a series of carbon-fluorine chains. Some fluoride salts are useful in the metal industry, especially in the production of aluminum and uranium. Fluorochloro-hydrocarbons are extensively used in air conditioners and refrigerators, and have been implicated in the disappearance of Earth’s ozone layer. Fluorine is highly poisonous in either gas form or in metal fluoride form. Fortunately, pure fluorine is unknown in nature, and metal fluorides are rare.
Fluorine is critical to mammals in trace amounts. It strengthens the crystalline structure of bones and teeth, making them far less prone to breakage or decay. Most municipalities add fluorine salts to their water supply for this purpose.
Role in Life Processes
Percentage Amount in the Human Body: 0.004%
Fluorine is obtained mainly from the mineral fluorite or fluorspar (calcium fluoride). Other fluorine-bearing minerals include apatite and cryolite. It is mined in China, Mongolia, Russia, Mexico and South Africa.