Identifying groundwater fluoride source in a weathered basement aquifer in central Malawi: human health and policy implications

Marc J. Addison, Michael O. Rivett, Peaches Phiri, Prince Mleta, Emma Mblame, Modesta Banda, Oliver Phiri, Wilson Lakudzala, Robert M. Kalin

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2 Citations (Scopus)
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Consumption of groundwater containing fluoride exceeding World Health Organization (WHO) 1.5 mg/L standard leaves people vulnerable to fluorosis: a vulnerability not well characterised in Malawi. To evaluate geogenic fluoride source and concentration, groundwater fluoride and geology was documented in central Malawi where groundwater supplies are mainly sourced from the weathered basement aquifer. Lithological composition was shown as the main control on fluoride occurrence. Augen gneiss of granitic composition posed the greatest geological fluoride risk. The weathered basement aquifer profile was the main factor controlling fluoride distributions. These results and fluoride-lithology statistical analysis allowed the development of a graded map of geological fluoride risk. A direct link to human health risk (dental fluorosis) from geological fluoride was quantified to support science-led policy change for fluoride in rural drinking water in Malawi. Hazard quotient (HQ) values were calculated and assigned to specific water points, depending on user age group; in this case, 74% of children under six were shown to be vulnerable to dental fluorosis. Results are contrary to current standard for fluoride in Malawi groundwater of 6 mg/L, highlighting the need for policy change. Detailed policy recommendations are presented based on the results of this study
Original languageEnglish
Article number5006
Number of pages22
JournalApplied Sciences
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jul 2020


  • fluoride
  • groundwater
  • Sustainable Development Goal 6
  • water quality
  • rural community water supply
  • weathered basement aquifer
  • hydrogeology
  • policy change

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