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Developing a Systems and Community-Based Approach for Controlling Excess Fluoride in Drinking Water in Northern GhanaEPA Grant Number: FP917230
Title: Developing a Systems and Community-Based Approach for Controlling Excess Fluoride in Drinking Water in Northern Ghana
Investigators: Craig, Laura
Institution: University of Nevada - Reno
EPA Project Officer: Jones, Brandon
Project Period: September 1, 2010 through August 31, 2013
Project Amount: $111,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2010) RFA Text | Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Drinking Water
Excess fluoride in drinking water is a serious global health problem, causing dental fluorisis in children and skeletal fluorosis that affects all ages. Poor and rural areas are particularly vulnerable as they often lack access to necessary water treatment methods. The focus of this research is to develop and implement a simple de-fluoridation system and management plan in close collaboration with affected communities in northern Ghana.
Excess fluoride in drinking water is a serious health problem. Poor and rural areas, such as the study sites in northern Ghana, are particularly vulnerable as they often lack access to treated water. Developing successful locally-managed drinking water systems under these conditions is needed, but also require direct community involvement. Thus, the focus of this study is to work extensively with the affected communities to develop a simple de-fluoridation system and management plan.
This research includes both laboratory and field components. The laboratory component is dedicated to treatment methods, and will initially focus on batch and column experiments to determine fluoride adsorption behavior of materials indigenous to northern Ghana and to experiment with filter column designs. The field component is dedicated to collecting well data, developing appropriate field designs, and surveying the community regarding health risks and proposed de-fluoridation systems. The well data include measuring fluoride concentrations and seasonal changes. The development of field designs involves testing and subsequent modification of filters depending upon fluoride removal capacity in the field, ease of use and maintenance of selected filter systems, and community responses to the designs. Community surveys will be conducted to (1) determine how much water is consumed daily (including setting up physical measurements in some households), (2) gauge the level of awareness regarding dangers of consuming excess fluoride, (3) estimate what percentage of the population suffers from fluorosis, and (4) determine which filter systems (i.e., in home or at hand-pump) will be most appropriate.
This interdisciplinary research project will provide experience including engineering design, hydrogeologic and geochemical analysis, socio-economic evaluation of a small-scale drinking water system, and information for development of a long-term health management plan at the community level. The project scope includes collection of key data on seasonal variation in groundwater levels and correlated changes in fluoride concentrations, daily water consumption, estimates of milligrams of fluoride consumed per day, dietary information, prevalence of fluorosis, and the most feasible filter designs and filter material. Through this project, we will develop a holistic approach for providing safe drinking water at the small-scale to low-income communities with a high risk of exposure to excess fluoride. A variation of this method may be replicable in other communities with similar drinking water issues.
Potential to Further Environmental/Human Health Protection:
The described project will contribute toward raising awareness of the dangers of excess fluoride intake and creation of a program for development and maintenance of de-fluoridation filters. Success with this effort in Ghana may extend to other regions facing safe drinking water and health management issues.