What to know about fluoride and well water
If you live in a city or large town, your public water system may add fluoride to drinking water to promote dental health. Few people realize that fluoride is also naturally-occurring in water drawn from bedrock wells, especially in some regions of New Hampshire. Most naturally-occurring fluoride levels are similar to levels found in public water systems, but in some areas of the state, higher levels of fluoride can occur.
What is fluoride?
Fluoride is a salt compound that forms when the element fluorine combines with minerals in soil and rocks. Bedrock wells draw water that flows through cracks in rocks deep below the ground, which is why some bedrock wells have higher levels of fluoride.
Is fluoride harmful to my health?
In small amounts, fluoride can help prevent tooth decay without any adverse health effects. It is found in many tooth pastes, mouth washes and in public water supplies. In larger amounts over a long period of time, fluoride has the opposite effect on teeth and bones. Children exposed to high levels of fluoride can develop pits in their teeth and excessive fluoride levels in adults can lead to bone deposits and joint pain.
How much fluoride is considered too much?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend fluoride levels of 1.1 parts per million to provide maximum tooth decay prevention. When fluoride levels reach 2 parts per million, staining of the teeth can occur, but the Environmental Protection Agency has deemed problems associated with 2 to 4 parts per million to be merely aesthetic. Health problems at this level are minimal if any. Studies have shown that fluoride levels begin to adversely affect a person’s health at levels higher than 4 parts per million.
Is 4 PPM common?
In New Hampshire, about 5 percent of bedrock wells have fluoride levels above 2 parts per million and less than 1 percent of wells have levels above 4 parts per million. Higher fluoride levels are more common in the Mt. Washington-Saco River Valley, Wolfeboro northwest to Franconia Notch and immediately west of Concord, NH.
How to I reduce the amount of fluoride in my water?
The only way to know if you have fluoride levels in your water that require treatment is to get it tested. Skillings & Sons can advise you on whether testing is needed and help you with collecting and submitting the samples.
If you wish to reduce fluoride levels, here are some options:
Reverse osmosis: In a reverse osmosis filtration system, water flows through a membrane, filtering out some of the molecules within the water, including fluoride. These molecules, plus some water, are flushed into your home’s wastewater system. The treated water is stored in a small storage tank until needed. Solids in the water can sometimes clog the membrane, so a sediment prefilter is also recommended.
Activated alumina: In this process, well water passes through an activated filter, typically a fiberglass canister. The fluoride sticks to the alumina, as well as other contaminants, such as arsenic and uranium, and are discarded with the used filter. Activated alumina can be used with both point-of-use and whole house treatment systems. If you need to treat a large amount of water, such as for business use, activated alumina may be more cost effective.
Distillation: A distillation system, which can be installed either under the sink or counter, uses temperature change to evaporate and recondense clean water. Fluoride and other inorganic minerals do not usually transfer into the condensed water, but some organic contaminants will.