Fluoride Action Network

Naturally occurring potentially toxic elements in groundwater from the volcanic landscape around Mount Meru, Arusha, Tanzania and their potential health hazard

Source: Science of The Total Environment | October 1st, 2021 | Authors: Tomašek I, Mouri H, Dille A, Bennett G, Bhattacharya P, Brion N, Elskens M, Fontijn K, Gao Y, Gevera PK, Ijumulana J, Kisaka M, Leermakers M, Shemsanga C, Walraevens K, Wragg J, Kervyn M.
Industry type: Volcanoes


  • Population of Mt. Meru (in EARV) is facing issues with water scarcity and quality.
  • We assess the presence of potentially toxic elements (PTE) in groundwater sources.
  • In some of the samples, concentrations of Mo and U exceed the permissible limits.
  • Other analysed PTEs are within the acceptable limits for drinking purpose.
  • The areas of high concentrations are covered with debris avalanche and ash deposits.

The population of the semi-arid areas of the countries in the East African Rift Valley (EARV) is faced with serious problems associated with the availability and the quality of the drinking water. In these areas, the drinking water supply largely relies on groundwater characterised by elevated fluoride concentration (> 1.5 mg/L), resulting from interactions with the surrounding alkaline volcanic rocks. This geochemical anomaly is often associated with the presence of other naturally occurring potentially toxic elements (PTEs), such as As, Mo, U, V, which are known to cause adverse effects on human health. This study reports on the occurrence of such PTEs in the groundwater on the populated flanks of Mt. Meru, an active volcano situated in the EARV. Our results show that the majority of analysed PTEs (Al, As, Ba, Cd, Cr, Cu, Fe, Mn, Ni, Se, Sr, Pb, and Zn) are within the acceptable limits for drinking purpose in samples collected from wells, springs and tap systems, suggesting that there is no immediate health risk associated with these PTEs. However, some of the samples were found to exceed the WHO tolerance limit for U (> 30 ?g/L) and Mo (> 70 ?g/L). The sample analysis also revealed that in some of the collected samples, the concentrations of total dissolved solids, Na + and K + exceed the permissible limits. The concerning levels of major parameters and PTEs were found to be associated with areas covered with debris avalanche deposits on the northeast flank, and volcanic ash and alluvial.

Keywords: East African Rift Valley; Groundwater quality; Health risk assessment; Meru volcano; Potentially toxic elements; Tanzania.