Levels of fluoride in hay near an aluminium smelter turned out to be lower than originally expected.
Earlier this month, Alcoa conducted an environmental reading on emissions coming from the plant and discovered that, as a result of a technical malfunction, a great deal of fluoride was released into the surrounding area last summer. The area at this time of year is plentiful with hay being grown for local farm animals. In fact, levels of fluoride that exceed the safe limit have been found in hay grown northwest of the plant, potentially affecting at least three farms in the area; Kollaleira, Áreyjar and Slétta.
Many Icelanders are already familiar with the damage high levels of fluoride can do – it is also a by-product of some volcanic eruptions, found particularly in the ash. Animals who eat ash-tainted grass can become poisoned, and experience deformities of the teeth and bones.
Alcoa alerted farmers in the area of the possible contamination, and sent the hay to the Northeast Iceland Nature Institute for testing.
RÚV now reports that levels of fluoride in the hay are within what is considered safe limits. Where 40 microgrammes is considered the maximum amount of acceptable fluoride, all but two samples measured contained 25 microgrammes of fluoride.
The news should come as a relief to farmers in the area, as livestock are at this time of year beginning their winter feed.