Why cattle, sheep are not smiling in fluoride endemic Nakuru County

A white smile is not to be taken for granted in Kenya’s fluoride endemic parts of the Great Rift Valley.

“Girls don’t want to look at me while recently recruiters for the Kenya armed forces told me to try another career,” says 26-year-old James Wakahia of Njoro in Nakuru.

“Your bones are not for the army, they had told me after a brief look at my caramel coloured teeth,” Wakahia told RS writer.

“Coloured teeth and weak bones are major problems in this area due to the high fluoride content in surface and ground waters,” says a team of researchers from Kenya and UK universities.

Livestock

But, the team from Eldoret University, Kenya, the public Regional Veterinary Investigation Laboratory and Aberystwyth University, UK in a new study says it is not only humans who have bad teeth in Nakuru but livestock as well.

The study, currently under review by the Quarterly Journal of the International Society for Fluoride Research found 86 per cent of all the sampled cattle and sheep had dental fluorosis.

“There is evidence to indicate this is as a result of ingestion of fluoridated drinking water and feeds.”

The team had sampled 549 animals consisting of 242 cattle and 307 sheep in Gilgil, Njoro, Egerton, Naivasha, and Nakuru areas of Nakuru County.

Milk

Additionally, samples of feeds, farm water, faeces, and cattle milk were collected and tested alongside the dental survey.

Fluoride concentrations were highest in farm water, feeds, cattle milk and faeces in that order. In water, the highest fluoride concentration was recorded around Naivasha and the lowest in Njoro areas.

More cattle than sheep were affected with the crossbreeds and the indigenous Maasai sheep more tolerant compared to the exotic Corriedale and Doper breeds.

“Indigenous sheep were more tolerant of fluoride and less sensitive to dental fluorosis than exotic sheep.”

The highest concentration of fluoride in milk occurred in Nakuru followed by Njoro, Naivasha, Egerton and Gilgil.

“On average the fluoride concentration in cattle milk from all the sites was above the recommended range,” says the study.

Toxicity

This study established the presence of significant levels of fluoride concentration in water and feeds “On the whole, livestock relying on these feed sources are undoubtedly faced with fluoride toxicity.”

To mitigate harm to both livestock and consumers of their products, the team suggests more farmer education and incorporation of calcium and aluminum in commercial feed and fodder.

“In addition to the other strategies, the provision of low fluoride water sources, such as rainfall collection and piped water can be encouraged,” suggests the team led by Erick Odongo Asembo.

By Gatonye Gathura

About Gatonye Gathura 125 Articles
Science Journalist

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