High-fluoride drinking water represents a health hazard to millions of people, not least in the East African Rift Valley. The aim of the present project was to establish a simple method for removing excessive fluoride from water. Based on geological maps and previous experience, 22 soil samples were selected in mountainous areas in central Ethiopia. Two experiments were performed: 1. After sieving and drying, two portions of 50 g were prepared from each soil and subsequently mixed with solutions of NaF (500 mL). Aliquots (5 mL) of the solutions were taken at pre-set intervals of 1 hour to 30 days for fluoride analysis - using an F-selective electrode. 2. After the termination of the 30-days test, liquids were decanted and the two soil samples that had most effectively removed fluoride from the NaF solutions were dried, and subsequently exposed to 500 mL aqua destillata. The possible F-release into the distilled water was assessed regularly. Great variations in fluoride binding patterns were observed in the different soils. The percent change in F-concentration in the solutions, as compared to the original |F-|, varied: at 1 hour from a decrease of 58% to an actual increase of 7.7%, while - at 30 days - all soil samples had caused a decrease in the F-concentration, varying from 0.5% to 98.5%. Only minute amounts of fluoride would leach from the fluoride-enriched soils. Lateritic soils may remove excessive fluoride from drinking water. Methods for practical application of this principle should be tested at household level.
Keywords: fluoride, defluoridation, drinking water, health