Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Fluoride occurrence in United States groundwater

May 11, 2020

Data from 38,105 wells were used to characterize fluoride (F) occurrence in untreated United States (U.S.) groundwater. For domestic wells (n = 11,032), water from which is generally not purposely fluoridated or monitored for quality, 10.9% of the samples have F concentrations >0.7 mg/L (U.S. Public Health Service recommended optimal F concentration in drinking water for preventing tooth decay) (87% are <0.7 mg/L); 2.6% have F > 2 mg/L (EPA Secondary Maximum Contaminant Level, SMCL); and 0.6% have F > 4 mg/L (EPA MCL). The data indicate the biggest concern with F in domestic wells at the national scale could be one of under consumption of F with respect to the oral-health benchmark (0.7 mg/L). Elevated F concentrations relative to the SMCL and MCL are regionally important, particularly in the western U.S. Statistical comparisons of potentially important controlling factors in four F-concentration categories (<0.1–0.7 mg/L; >0.7–2 mg/L; >2–4 mg/L; >4 mg/L) at the national scale indicate the highest F-concentration category is associated with groundwater that has significantly greater pH values, TDS and alkalinity concentrations, and well depths, and lower Ca/Na ratios and mean annual precipitation, than the lowest F-concentration category. The relative importance of the controlling factors appears to be regionally variable. Three case studies illustrate the spatial variability in controlling factors using groundwater-age (groundwater residence time), water-isotope (evaporative concentration), and water-temperature (geothermal processes) data. Populations potentially served by domestic wells with F concentrations <0.7, >0.7, >2, and >4 mg/L are estimated to be ~28,200,000, ~3,110,000; ~522,000; and ~172,000 people, respectively, in 40 principal aquifers with at least 25 F analyses per aquifer.