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Improving the sustainability of an appropriate technology solution; bone char defluoridation filters in Arusha, Tanzania
High concentrations of fluoride naturally occurring in the ground water in the Arusha region of Tanzania cause dental, skeletal and non-skeletal fluorosis in up to 90% of the region’s population . Symptoms of this incurable but completely preventable disease include brittle, discolored teeth, malformed bones and stiff and swollen joints. The consumption of high fluoride water has also been proven to cause headaches and insomnia  and adversely affect the development of children’s intelligence [3, 4]. Despite the fact that this array of symptoms may significantly impact a society’s development and the citizens’ ability to perform work and enjoy a reasonable quality of life, little is offered in the Arusha region in the form of solutions for the poor, those hardest hit by the problem. Multiple defluoridation technologies do exist, yet none are successfully reaching the Tanzanian public.
This report takes a closer look at the efforts of one local organization, the Defluoridation Technology Project (DTP), to address the region’s fluorosis problem through the production and dissemination of bone char defluoridation filters, an appropriate technology solution that is proven to work. The goal of this research is to improve the sustainability of DTP’s operations and help them reach a wider range of clients so that they may reduce the occurrence of fluorosis more effectively. This was done first through laboratory testing of current products. Results of this testing show a wide range in uptake capacity across batches of bone char emphasizing the need to modify kiln design in order to produce a more consistent and high quality product. The issue of filter dissemination was addressed through the development of a multi-level, customerfunded business model promoting the availability of filters to Tanzanians of all socioeconomic levels. Central to this model is the recommendation to focus on community managed, institutional sized filters in order to make fluoride free water available to lower income clients and to increase Tanzanian involvement at the management level.