WOODSTOCK — Oxford County public health and emergency services is offering free testing for nitrates and fluoride to owners of private wells.
The testing is offered by the county for a limited time only, lasting between Feb. 16 and March 25, 2011.
” This is a one-time event,” said Peter Heywood, program supervisor, health protection. “We received additional funding through the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care and applied a portion of this funding to offer this service.”
High levels of nitrates can cause what is known as ” baby blue syndrome” in infants six months of age and younger that can impact the blood’s ability to transport oxygen.
“With nitrates, there are some health risk associated with them,” Heywood said. “If oxygen is not reaching the tissues, a risk of death is possible — really the baby is not receiving enough oxygen.”
Elevated levels of fluoride are less of health risk but can cause a condition of the teeth known as fluorosis that affects their appearance, Heywood said.
“Fluorosis is a condition rather than a health problem or risk,” Heywood said. “Certainly the benefits of naturally occurring fluoride outweigh the risks.”
The effects of fluorosis show up as white flecks on the teeth and higher levels can cause brown stains or pits on the tooth’s enamel.
While Oxford County does not add fluoride to its drinking water, there are naturally elevated levels in some parts of the county.
Well owners can pick up and drop off water sample bottles at the public health building at 410 Buller St. in Woodstock. Water samples must be taken within 48 hours of submission for testing.
While the nitrate and fluoride testing is being offered for a limited time only, public heath offered free bacteria testing year round.
Well owners are encouraged to test their wells for bacteria three times a year and once a year for nitrates and fluoride.