Predicting groundwater vulnerability to geogenic fluoride risk: a screening method for Malawi and an opportunity for national policy redefinition

Marc J. Addison, Michael O. Rivett, Peaches Phiri, Prince Mleta, Emma Mblame, Gift Wanangwa, Robert M. Kalin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Fluoride concentrations in Malawi’s groundwater are primarily controlled by geogenic sources that are highly variable and may cause a heterogeneous fluoride occurrence and local-to-regional variations in fluorosis health risks posed. Our aim was to address the challenge of developing a national solution to predicting groundwater vulnerability to geogenic fluoride risk in the country of Malawi where incidences of fluorosis are reported and typical developing world problems of limited data and resources abound. Previously there have only been sporadic, local-scale studies linking fluoride occurrence with health risks in Malawi with no attempts to tackle the issue nationally. We hence develop a screening method for predicting groundwater vulnerability to geogenic fluoride in the form of detailed risk maps developed from statistical relationships shown between groundwater fluoride occurrence and known geogenic fluoride sources. The approach provides for dynamic update and informed acquisition of new data and hence on-going improving capacity to manage fluoride risks in Malawi. Our screening method provides a technical basis for redefining national fluoride policy to ensure commensurate management of health risks posed. Specifically, the approach provides a pathway for stepped progression from the current 6 mg/L Malawian standard for fluoride in drinking water to adoption of the World Health Organisation 1.5 mg/L guideline standard.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3123
Number of pages27
JournalWater
Volume12
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 7 Nov 2020

Keywords

  • fluoride
  • groundwater
  • risk managment
  • environmental management
  • rural community water supply
  • policy change
  • Malawi

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