Naturally occurring fluoride affects an estimated 200 million people worldwide resulting in dental and skeletal fluorosis. At low levels fluoride helps prevent cavities but at higher levels it damages teeth and at still higher levels it damages bones.
In 2009 the OU WaTER Center began building a team of OU faculty, students and staff to help develop solutions to the fluoride problem in rural Ethiopia. Participants include WaTER Center director David Sabatini, staff engineer Jim Chamberlain, former doctoral student Laura Brunson (Ph.D., Environmental Engineering, 2014) and current doctoral student Teshome Lemma from CEES, professor Lowell Busenitz of the Price College of Business and professor Paul Spicer and doctoral student Ann Kroeger from the Department of Anthropology; all are very excited to be conducting their work with Ethiopian partners from Addis Ababa University, the Ethiopia Water Ministry, Oromo Self Help Organization – an Ethiopian NGO, and the Catholic Relief Service / Meki Catholic Secretariat.
The team and their partners are currently working together to implement three different technologies in rural villages in Ethiopia, including one developed in the WaTER Center laboratories. Of the project Sabatini said “Our ultimate goal is to work ourselves out of a job by building local capacity in Ethiopia so that Ethiopians can themselves meet the needs of the estimated 12 million of the populace currently drinking water tainted with fluoride. In this way, our work will contribute to the improvement of health in one of the most impoverished regions of the world.”