An Award-Winning Approach to Addressing the Fluorosis Crisis

Dr Suphiya Khan, a Chevening fellow hosted by St Cross in 2019, has won the UK-India Achievers Award in recognition of her work in research and innovation to address the prevalence of fluorosis in India and around the world.  

It is a great honour, and I am truly humbled. This award is a testament to all the hard work and dedication that I have put in to make an impact.

In 2003, while working on a DNA fingerprinting project at Banasthali University, Dr Khan learned that many people in the local region — in India’s Rajasthan state — were suffering from dental and skeletal fluorosis.

Dental fluorosis causes changes to the appearance of tooth enamel, while skeletal fluorosis can result in more severe problems such as stiff joints, weakened bones and even permanent disability. More than 200 million people worldwide, including 60 million in India, suffer from fluorosis, which is largely attributable to over exposure to ionic fluoride — a harmful form of fluoride that is formed when the molecule is dissolved in water.

suphiya khan

Dr Khan noticed that the presence of fluorosis persisted even though there were awareness programmes and government policies in place in India to address the problem. She resolved to tackle the issue and began researching ways to eliminate excess fluoride in the water supply.    

Dr Khan’s aim is to translate her research into making water purification affordable. To do so, she founded Drumlins Water Technologies, where she and her colleagues have devised a method that entails using a specially formulated product — essentially a tea bag-like pouch that is dipped into water to remove fluoride. The product, currently in the development stage, has been tested in about 200 homes locally.

Hoping to learn more about how to move forward with her company and better understand the process of commercialising her lab technologies, Dr Khan came to St Cross College as a Chevening Fellow in March 2019. She networked with other start-ups and with mentors, then formulated a business plan, and she remembers her time at the College fondly.

“I had an extraordinary time,” Dr Khan said.  

“I really cherished the diverse, vibrant, and passionate international community at St Cross College.”