Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2020, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (6): 908-920.doi: 10.1007/s11442-020-1761-4

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Distribution of fluoride in surface water and a health risk assessment in the upper reaches of the Yongding River

WANG Tao1,*, SHAO Zhijiang1, YU Hui1, BAH Hamidou2   

  1. 1. Key Laboratory of Mountain Surface Processes and Ecological Regulation, CAS; Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, CAS, Chengdu 610041, China
    2. Institute of Superior Agronomy and Veterinary of Faranah (ISAV/F), Faranah 131, Guinea
  • Received:2019-09-20 Accepted:2020-03-05 Online:2020-06-25 Published:2020-08-25
  • Contact: WANG Tao
  • About author:Wang Tao (1978–), Associate Professor, specialized in water pollution control. E-mail:
  • Supported by:
    The National Major Science and Technology Program for Water Pollution Control and Treatment(No.2017ZX07101001)


The excessive exposure to high concentrations of fluoride in drinking water can lead to a serious disease called fluorosis. The upstream region of the Yongding River is an ecological protection area for Beijing. Some studies have reported that there is a high concentration of fluoride in the groundwater in this area. However, there are few data on the distribution of fluoride in surface water and health risk assessments in this area. In this study, the fluoride concentrations were determined by using the spectrophotometric method using data from 2013 to 2017 from 9 surface water quality monitoring stations in the upper reaches of the Yongding River. The health risks of fluoride were assessed using the approach developed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). The results indicated that the fluoride content in the drinking water ranged from 0.30 to 1.50 mg L-1, with an average of 0.86 mg L-1. In total, 22.7% of the analyzed samples exceeded the Chinese limit of 1.0 mg L-1 for fluoride, and 5.5% of samples had less than the permissible limit of 0.5 mg L-1. Higher fluoride concentrations and fluorosis hotspots were found to be predominately located downstream of the Yanghe River close to the Guanting Reservoir, where 71.4% of samples exceeded the limit of 1.0 mg/L-1. The spatial distribution of high fluoride concentrations was found to be primarily determined by industry. The hazard quotient (HQ) index for children, teenagers and adults indicated that 19.6%, 15.6%, and 5.1% of the samples in the upper reaches of the Yongding River, respectively, posed health hazards to the associated groups. Furthermore, the HQ index more than 1 for children, teenagers and adults had values of 64.3%, 56.1%, and 19.4%, respectively, in samples from the downstream region of the Yanghe River. Therefore, there are potential risks of dental and skeletal fluorosis in the upper river reaches of the Yongding River. It is imperative to take measures to reduce the fluoride pollution in surface water and control fluorosis. Action should be taken to improve the disposal of industrial waste.

Key words: fluoride, hazard quotient index, surface water, health risk, Yongding River