Fluoride enrichment in groundwater of Mihe-Weihe River Basin, China

In the Mihe-Weihe River Basin of China, the distribution and causes of fluoride in groundwater remain unclear, posing a significant risk to its future development and utilization. Researchers from Shandong University of Science and Technology conducted a comprehensive study using systematic sampling and analysis to understand the distribution and enrichment mechanisms of fluoride in groundwater. Their findings were published in the journal Frontiers of Environmental Science & Engineering.

Fluoride is an essential trace element that benefits human metabolism and disease prevention. However, excessive fluoride intake can lead to “fluorosis,” damaging enzymes vital for vitamin metabolism and causing harm to bones, brain tissue, kidneys, and the central nervous system.

The exploitation of shallow groundwater as a drinking water source has increased due to global water scarcity, particularly in arid regions of China. Unfortunately, industrial, agricultural, and urban activities have exacerbated groundwater pollution, with the fluorine content exceeding safety standards in many areas.

The Mihe-Weihe River Basin in the Shandong Peninsula is severely affected by high-fluorine water, leading to endemic fluorosis. The investigation revealed a significant number of high and moderate-fluorine water sources, impacting a large proportion of the population.

Despite the severity of fluorosis in the area, research on the migration and enrichment of fluorine in shallow groundwater and its impact on environmental quality and human health has been lacking. Professor Peihe Zhai’s team addressed this gap in their work.

The study identified that groundwater in the Mihe-Weihe River Basin is characterized by high total dissolved solids (TDS) and weak alkalinity, with a widespread presence of medium-fluorine water. High-fluorine water is mainly found in the northeast regions, characterized by HCO3·Cl-Na and HCO3-Na type water.

Fluoride concentration decreases with the buried depth of groundwater. Fluorine richness during the wet season is primarily influenced by rock weathering and fluorine-containing mineral dissolution. The weak alkaline environment, rich in sodium and poor in calcium, contributes to fluorine enrichment during the dry season.

Groundwater contamination assessment indicates severe pollution in the northeast region during the wet season, with potential health risks for adults and children, particularly in the Weihan and Changyi water source areas.

Efforts to prevent fluoride contamination and improve groundwater quality have been undertaken in a scientifically rational manner, with a focus on local exploitation, utilization, and management methods.

This research’s outcomes can provide a scientific basis for sustainable groundwater utilization, water quality improvement, and fluorine pollution treatment in the Mihe-Weihe River Basin. Additionally, they have substantial implications for regional environmental planning and management.

Source: Higher Education Press

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