Well Water Testing Analysis and Contamination in MA and NH – Fluoride in water

The sixth post in our series highlighting some of the contaminants that can be found in water wells. Northeast Water Wells is available to collect samples and test your well water for contaminants anytime.

If you have a private well, regular water quality testing is very important. Northeast Water Wells recommends testing your well at least every two years. Many contaminants cannot be identified by taste or odor, making it difficult for homeowners to know if the water quality of their well has changed.

What is fluoride?

Fluoride is a common element found in minerals, rock and soil. It naturally occurs in the earth’s soil.   As groundwater passes through minerals, rocks and soil it picks up fluoride and becomes dissolved in the groundwater.  Most water contains some amount of fluoride.

Fluoride content in water varies by region.  Dry regions generally have higher fluoride levels in their water than regions that have higher average rainfall amounts.  Fluoride occurs naturally in most groundwater.  The fluoride level in well-water will depend on the nature of the rock near the well and the presence of fluoride-bearing minerals.

What are the health effects of excess Fluoride?

At low concentrations, fluoride is believed to prevent tooth decay and strengthen teeth. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), the optimal level of fluoride in water is between 0.7 and 1.2 ppm. Excessive amounts of fluoride consumed over time can accumulate in the bones and lead to skeletal fluorosis.  Skeletal fluorosis involves pain or stiffness of the joints.  In severe cases, it can cause damage to bone structure, calcification of ligaments, and crippling effects.

Dental fluorosis can also occur even with lower levels of fluoride in the well water.  Dental fluorosis is not considered a disease, but it does affect the appearance of teeth.   A mild form of dental fluorosis may create faint white lines or streaks on the teeth that are not very visible.   A more moderate form may lead to more visible spots on the teeth.   The most serious cases of severe dental fluorosis may develop brown stains and pits on the teeth.

What are the regulations on Fluoride in well water?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set a drinking water standard for fluoride of 4 mg/L, as it believes this is the maximum safe level to prevent individuals from acquiring skeletal fluorosis.   Even at lower levels, dental fluorosis (discoloration or weakening of teeth) may occur.  Therefore, the EPA has also set a secondary standard of 2 mg/L for fluoride to protect against dental fluorosis.  A secondary standard is one which the EPA recommends water systems follow, but does not enforce.  Dental fluorosis only affects the teeth before they erupt from the gums, so the EPA suggests that children under age 8 not drink water containing more than 2 milligrams per liter (mg/L) of fluoride.

What are the treatments for excess Fluoride in drinking water?

If the natural fluoride level of your well exceeds 2 ppm, and you have children under age 8, you may choose to reduce or remove fluoride from your drinking water.  Treatment options include reverse osmosis, activated alumina and distillation.  The use of bone charcoal, electrodialysis and deionization have also been shown to be effective.   It should be noted that the effectiveness of the above-mentioned treatment methods is also dependent on the pH level of the water. For example, activated alumina is most effective at removing fluoride when the pH range is between 5.5 and 6.5. Boiling water will not remove fluoride, and will actually concentrate the amount of fluoride in the water.

Northeast Water Wells offers a variety of testing packages to take care of all of your water needs. Call today to set up a time for us to collect a sample of your water. All of our testing is done through a state certified analytical lab.

If you live in Massachusetts you can view the guidelines for Well Water Testing here

If you live in New Hampshire you can view the guidelines for Well Water Testing here

Article written by Karen Provencher, Northeast Water Wells