For a limited time Oxford County Public Health is testing well water for nitrates and fluoride at no cost to residents.
“At public health we continuously offer bacteria testing of well water. For the last several years fluoride and nitrate testing has not been offered for free,” Peter Heywood, program supervisor of health protection said during a telephone interview Tuesday.
Heywood said about 10 years ago the ministry funded nitrate and fluoride testing for free for well owners but because of budget changes that service was discontinued.
The cost of the test is about $25.
“A few years ago we did this and received about 100 samples so we thought it would be good idea to do it again,” he said.
Testing for fluoride and nitrate levels is recommended once a year for private well owners in addition to bacterial testing, which is recommended three times a year.
Oxford County does not add fluoride to its municipal water system, but fluoride is naturally present in the water in the County. In some communities, such as Brownsville, Ingersoll, Lakeside, Springford and also some areas with private well water, natural fluoride in the drinking water is higher than the provincially recommended range of 1.5 mg/L.
Natural fluoride levels above 1.5 mg/L can cause dental fluorosis in children. The cosmetic, not health problem, can cause discolouration or pitting on teeth.
It’s recommended children six years of age and under living in communities with higher levels of fluoride should cut back on other sources of fluoride, for instance by using a non-fluoride toothpaste.
As Oxford County is an agricultural community the chance of nitrate exposure in well water is higher because of livestock manure, chemical fertilizers and even septic system run-off. Nitrate also occurs naturally in the soil and water because of decaying plants.
High levels of nitrates can lead to what is called Blue Baby Syndrome in infants less than six months of age, affecting the blood’s ability to carry oxygen.
Between now and Oct. 31, well owners can pick up and drop off water testing kits at the public health building at 410 Buller Street in Woodstock, Monday through Thursday between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.