More than 14 million Ethiopians may be potentially at risk of fluorosis, a dental problem which affects the colour and texture of human white teeth, the Ministry of Water Resources announced citing a recent assessment.
Various studies conducted show that dental, skeletal and crippling fluorosis associated with excessive fluoride in drinking water is becoming a very serious health problem in the country.
Speaking at the opening of a two-day workshop, Minister of Water Resources Asfaw Dingamo indicated that recent assessment of the Fluoride, Fluorosis and Defluoridation issues in Ethiopia indicate that out of those at risk, approximately 85% may have already been exposed to high fluoride contamination Excessive fluoride is the most serious water sanitation problem, mainly in the Ethiopian Rift Valley system affecting areas in Afar , Oromia, and the Southern Nations, Nationalities and peoples regional states, including some parts of Gambela Regional State.
“Although few decades have been counted since Ethiopia recognized the problem of fluorosis and its effects on millions of people in the rift valley, the level of national efforts towards fluorosis mitigation has remained low,” the minister said.
He said despite numerous attempts to establish a responsible structure to lead the national efforts, the success has been constrained by a number of factors.
The minister noted however that as part of the continued efforts to see the prevailing health problem controlled, a high level National Fluorosis Mitigation Steering Committee composed of Ministers and Heads of relevant agencies has been re-established to guide, coordinate and lead fluorosis mitigation efforts in Ethiopia.
Water Resource Administration and Urban Water Supply and Sewerage Department Head in the Ministry of Water Resource, Yohanes G/Medhin pointed out that solutions were available to the problem “There are solutions to the problem the major one being removal of the excess fluoride from the drinking water supply of the communities residing in these areas” he said adding that the technologies to do so are in fact matured and being used in many parts of the world.
Yohanes said the most important task therefore remains to be selecting, adapting and disseminating technologies that are effective, simple and affordable to the majority of the rural people.
The work shop was held at the Axum Hotel in Addis Ababa under the theme: Fluorosis Mitigation Learning Exchange from March 4-5,2008.
Studies indicate that the concentration of fluoride in drinking water in affecting areas ranges from 0.4 to 36 mg/litter which are by far greater than the WHO- recommended range of fluoride concentration for potable water.