Well Water Contaminants FAQ: Fluoride

Fluoride Contamination in Well Water

Fluoride Contamination in Well Water

Fluoride can be both a benefit and a contaminant, depending upon the concentration found.

When you receive your water from a private well it's your responsibility to maintain the health and safety of your water supply. Annual testing can help you to keep your water clean and healthy. There are many different organic and inorganic chemicals and organisms that can show up in your water supply. One chemical that is added to municipal water supplies, but can also occur naturally in groundwater is fluoride. Fluoride can be both a benefit and a contaminant, depending upon the concentration found.

Let's answer some frequently asked questions about fluoride; it's benefits and the dangers when it occurs, and how to protect yourself if levels are unsafe in your drinking water supply.

What is Fluoride?

Fluoride is a natural mineral found in soil and rocks in the form of fluorine. In municipal water supplies, low levels of fluoride are added to drinking water to help prevent and reverse the early stages of tooth decay. In groundwater, fluoride is deposited into wells through naturally occurring processes. The content of fluoride varies by region. Drier regions typically have higher levels than regions that have higher rainfall. Groundwater typically contains more than surface water and concentrations may be difficult to determine and is based on well depth and seasonal changes.

How does fluoride get into my well water?

As rainwater or surface water passes through soil and rock that contain the fluoride-bearing mineral fluorine, fluoride is release through the process of leaching.  As a result, most water contains some amount of naturally-occurring fluoride Naturally occurring fluoride levels can vary widely from .1 to as high as 12 parts per million (ppm)

The level varies depending on the nature of the rock near the well and the presence of fluoride-bearing minerals. 

What are the health effects of fluoride in my well water?

In small doses, fluoride in well water can be beneficial to dental health and aid in the prevention of tooth decay. Unfortunately, fluoride concentrations can vary widely, and overexposure can result in negative health effects. Consumption of excess amounts of fluoride over time can cause skeletal fluorosis. This is an accumulation of fluoride in the bones that over time can cause pain, a stiffness of the joints, damage to the bone structure, calcification of ligaments and crippling effects.

Municipal water suppliers put relatively low concentrations of fluoride into drinking water (between .7 – 1.2 ppm) to act as a dental preventative. Unfortunately, in nature, concentrations can range up to 12 ppm. Excess fluoridation is especially worrisome for infants and small children under the age of 9.

Should I test my well for fluoride?

It is important to know the fluoride levels in your well water, especially if you have young children in your home. Testing is the best way to determine if fluoride is present and in what concentrations. As mentioned earlier, the level of fluoride can vary widely by region. In drier regions fluoride levels may be higher that in rainier regions like the Northeast. Concentration may be difficult to determine for well water as the depth of the well and seasonal changes can effect levels. Your well water professional will know your local conditions and can help you to accurately test for and assess fluoride levels in your well.

What can I do if my well tests positive for elevated fluoride levels?

While the American Dental Association, the Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Surgeon General all unreservedly endorse water fluoridation as a safe, effective, and necessary treatment for the prevention of tooth decay, should the natural fluoride level exceed optimal levels in your well after testing, treatment options are available.

Options for removal of excess fluoridation include reverse osmosis, activated alumina cartridges, and distillation methods. The use of bone charcoal, electrodialysis and deionization are also efficient. If should be noted that some of these methods are effective partly depending upon the pH level of the water. For example, activated alumina is most effective if pH levels are in the range of 5.5 and 6;5 percent. The best solution is to have your water tested by a state-certified well water professional. Testing can determine the actual levels of fluoride present.

Your well water professional can help you to determine the best, most cost-effective treatment available for removing excess fluoride from your well water should testing determine levels are excessive. Contact Skillings & Sons to speak with a well water expert. Remember your well's health is your responsibility. As with many things in life, a little fluoride goes a long way! If testing determines that you may have a problem, your well water professional can help you with the solution.