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In Ethiopia, an eggshell calcium will be used to mitigate fluorosis: It is estimated that about 14 million Ethiopians have fluorosis partially due to high levels of naturally-occurring fluoride in the groundwater through the East African Rift.
Severe fluorosis can cause painful and crippling damage to teeth, bones, and joints, reducing mobility and affecting livelihoods, but removing excessive fluoride from water is difficult and expensive. Diets rich in calcium may reduce the severity of symptoms by binding fluoride, but no attempt has been made to confirm this effect at the community level.
The project will expand the use of an age-old source of calcium: eggshells. Each eggshell contains 2,000 mg of calcium and, finely ground and mixed into meals, it binds to fluoride from food and beverages, preventing its absorption. The impact will be measured in fluorosis-affected areas by decreased body fluoride load, reflected in less urine fluoride excretion, and in mitigation of fluorosis symptoms.
In Ethiopia, eggs are a culturally acceptable food, eggshells are readily available, and mothers taught to mix ground eggshell with food have been accepting. The project aims to become sustainable by introducing chickens into communities, which has accompanying financial and nutritional benefits.