LINCOLN, Neb. -- Most Nebraskans who get their drinking water from private wells are not getting the amount of fluoride suggested by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, according to a new study.
Only eight of 93 counties had average fluoride concentrations in private drinking wells that met EPA-suggested minimum levels, the study showed.
While about 70 percent of Nebraskans served by a public water supply receive fluoridated water, those with private wells must do their own testing and supplementation of fluoride if they want the well-documented benefits to dental health of adequate fluoride in drinking water.
The study by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Conservation and Survey Division (CSD) and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services tested 1,794 domestic wells that had fluoride concentrations varying from less than 0.1 milligram per liter to 2.6 mg/l. It resulted in a statewide average of 0.4 mg/l and a median of 0.3 mg/l.
EPA and the state Department of Dental Health recommend concentrations for optimal dental health in Nebraska vary depending on estimates of water consumed, but range from 0.7 to 1.5 mg/l.
Counties with average fluoride concentrations in rural domestic drinking water that met that 0.7 minimum were: Box Butte (0.7 mg/l), Chase (0.8 mg/l), Cheyenne (0.7 mg/l), Dundy (1 mg/l), Frontier (0.7 mg/l), Hayes (0.8 mg/l), Hitchcock (0.8 mg/l) and Knox (0.6 mg/l). Three counties came close: Kimball, Red Willow and Scotts Bluff, all with an average of 0.6 mg/l.
Fluoridation of water is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Dental Association and the American Medical Association, among many other prominent national health organizations. The downside of fluoride is that excessive amounts can discolor teeth, although the AAP says that is only cosmetic and not a health issue.
The fluoride survey should help determine areas where testing of rural domestic water supplies would be advisable. Study authors recommend that all private wells be tested, said David C. Gosselin, CSD groundwater geologist. A national study published in 1992 reported that more than 164 million hours of work and 51 million hours of school time were lost because of dental problems, he added.
The Conservation and Survey Division is a unit of the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources. For more information, write to Gosselin at: 113 Nebraska Hall, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 68588-0517; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; or call (402) 472-8919.
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