A simple colour-changing test to rapidly detect fluoride in drinking water may help prevent a crippling bone disease, in developing countries such as India, scientists have said. While low amounts of fluoride are beneficial for healthy teeth, high levels of fluoride can weaken bones, leading to skeletal fluorosis, said researchers at the University of Bath in the UK.

This disease causes crippling deformities of the spine and joints, especially in children whose skeletons are still forming, they said. When water passes over certain minerals, it can dissolve fluoride, which results in elevated levels of fluoride in drinking water sources in parts of India, East Africa, China and North America. Levels of fluoride in drinking water are routinely monitored and controlled at treatment works in developed countries. However, in areas where there is no piped water system or treatment works, people rely on drawing untreated water from wells, which can often be contaminated with higher than recommended levels of fluoride

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