Water Test to Detect Fluoride

Researchers at the University of Bath’s Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies and the Water Innovation and Research Centre (WIRC) have developed a simple color changing test to detect fluoride in drinking water. The researches believe this can help prevent bone disease and fluorosis in developing countries. This is because high levels of fluoride can weaken bones, leading to fluorosis. This disease leads to irreversible deformities of the spine and joints and particularly is harmful to children. Such a topic has been covered here before see http://blog.teethremoval.com/large-amounts-of-fluoride-consumed-by-young-children-leads-to-fluorosis/.

Fluoride is often added to water in developed countries to help with keeping teeth healthy and prevent tooth decay. However, in some countries there are naturally occur elevated levels of fluoride. Levels of fluoride in drinking water are regularly monitored and controlled at treatment works in developed countries. In other areas of the world there are no piped water system or treatment works and water often can have higher than recommended levels of fluoride. In addition, the amounts of fluoride in the groundwater can vary due to weather such as lots of rain.

The test the researchers have developed is at the poor of concept stage. The group hopes to develop a disposable test strip that is low cost and easy to use. The group says it would be kind of like a litmus paper test strip that even someone without any scientific training can perform. The test is a molecule that simply changes color in a few minutes and you can tell you whether the level of fluoride is too high. Most current water quality monitoring systems need a lab, power supply, and trained operator, so there is much more cost involved.

The researchers have partnered with the Nasio Trust, a charity that works to protect and support vulnerable children in East Africa. They say that people living in the Oldonyosambu area of Arusha Tanzania East Africa, have been drinking water with naturally occurring levels of fluoride that can reach over sixty times the U.S. recommended level. This has had a detrimental effect on the community leading to fluorosis, chronic pain, and poor cognitive development in children. The hope is that being able to test fluoride levels in a simple and cheap way will help reduce the fluoride problem and improve the quality of life and long term health of the community. The researchers are also exploring adding additional partners to help further develop the technology and   test. The researchers also believe they may be able to develop similar tests for other  types of  water contaminants including lead, mercury and cadmium. This work should make people who currently live in developed countries feel fortunate that there are ways to detect fluoride in water currently and helps keep young children healthy.

Source: Carlos M. López-Alled and et. al., Azulene–boronate esters: colorimetric indicators for fluoride in drinking water, Chemical Communications, 2017.

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