Earth Institute Research Projects

Enhancing the impact of well testing for fluoride with skits and songs in rural India

Lead PI: Radhika Iyengar , Dr. Alexander F. Van Geen

Unit Affiliation: Center for Sustainable Development (CSD)

Unit Affiliation: Geochemistry, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO)

January 2020 - December 2021
Asia ; Jobat Tehsil, Alirajpur District, Madhya Pradesh, India
Project Type: Research Education

DESCRIPTION: Fluoride prevents tooth decay but fluoride levels in drinking water >1.5 mg/L (The WHO guideline) can cause discoloration and pitting of the teeth. In some rural areas of India, drinking well-water with particularly high fluoride causes debilitating skeletal deformation even in children. This fluoride is of natural origin and its spatial distribution is spatially heterogenous. This complicates prediction but also provides an opportunity for lowering exposure by sharing safe wells. The hypothesis underlying this project is that the beneficial impact of testing will be enhanced by a public health message conveyed with locally-produced skits and songs compared to testing alone. Funding is requested from the Earth Frontiers program for a randomized-controlled trial to test this hypothesis. This is plausible for a limited budget only because the tester and response enumerators will be volunteers in training at a local college students and test kits will be provided by local government. This new project is a collaboration between the Earth Institute's Center for Sustainable Development (Education Sector), Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (Geochemistry Division) and involves two undergraduates in Sustainable Development with interest in the performing arts, and a student in the PhD program in Sustainable Development with the necessary skills in micro-economics.