High concentrations of fluoride in ground-water supplies in certain areas of Horry and Georgetown Counties, S.C., have been the cause of dental fluorosis (tooth mottling) among persons who have lived in these areas and have ingested the water as children.
Geochemical evidence and laboratory experiments demonstrate that fluorapatite in the form of fossil shark teeth is the source of fluoride, and that the fluoride ions are liberated to the ground-water system through anion exchange, rather than by dissolution.
Calcite-cemented quartz sand in the upper third of the Black Creek Formation of Late Cretaceous age contains the fossil shark teeth. As ground water progresses downdip, the calcite matrix dissolves and hydrolyzes, releasing bicarbonate, hydroxyl, and calcium ions. The calcium ions are immediately exchanged for sodium ions adsorbed on sodium-rich clays, and the bicarbonate ions accumulate. As the shark teeth are exposed, the hydroxyl ions in solution exchange with fluoride ions on fluorapatite surfaces. Experiments using fossil shark teeth show that sodium chloride in solution inhibits the rate of exchange of fluoride ions from tooth surfaces for hydroxyl ions in solution. The amount of fluoride removed from water and exchanged for hydroxyl ions in the presence of pure hydroxylapatite (hog teeth) was greater in saline water than in freshwater.