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Taiwan Buddhist group sends low-fluorine tea to Tibet - Summary

November 22, 2007

Posted : Tue, 20 Nov 2007 16:22:02 GMT
Author : DPA
Asia World News | Home
Taipei - A Taiwan Buddhist group, believing the high- fluorine butter 
tea which Tibetans have been drinking for centuries is bad for their 
health, is sending low-fluorine tea to Tibet, the group said Tuesday. 
The Buddhist Tzuchi Foundation joined Chinese researchers in studying 
the tea-drinking habits of Tibetans in 2000 and since 2004, has 
distributed 144 tons of low-fluorine tea to Tibet, the group's deputy 
leader Wang Tuan-cheng said.

For thousands of years, Tibetans have been drinking butter tea to 
help them digest meat and stay warm in the harsh climate. Tibetan 
soil has a high fluorine content, which is absorbed by the tea bushes.

Chinese scholars noticed the high levels of fluorine in Tibetan 
butter tea in 1983 and launched a field study in 1994.

Tzuchi listed fluorine poisoning by tea as one of its overseas relief 
projects in 2000.

In 2004, Tzuchi and Chinese scholars launched a joint research 
project which discovered fluorine poisoning from butter tea among 
minority ethnic groups in Inner Mongolia, Tibet, Sichuan, Qinghai, 
Gansu and Xinjiang.

According to Tzuchi's study, Tibetans drink large amounts of butter 
tea, sometimes up to 40-50 cups a day.

"They drink it like water, so it causes many health problems, like 
dental or skeletal fluorosis, yellow teeth, teeth decay and the 
stooping of the back," Tzuchi's Wang said.

A separate study by Chinese doctors showed that 53.5 per cent of 
students in Naqu, northern Tibet, suffer from dental fluorosis due to 
drinking butter tea from an early age.

According to the World Health Organization, a safe fluorine intake is 
2 milligrammes for a child and 4mg for an adult, but the fluorine in 
a kettle of butter tea (2,600 cubic centimetres from 100 grams of 
tea) made from the traditional Tibetan brick-tea is 6-10 mg.

The fluorine content in the low-fluorine tea brick is less than 4mg.

Professor Cao Xing from China's Central South University, who headed 
the research, has obtained the patent for the low-fluorine tea brick 
and wants to share it with Tzuchi.

But Tzuchi hopes Cao can pass the patent to China's health 
authorities so that they can mass produce low-fluorine tea bricks for 
Tibetans and other Chinese ethnic minorities.
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