PATIALA: A Mohali-based orthopaedician has claimed that there has been an “alarming increase” in the cases of skeletal fluorosis — a potentially debilitating bone disease caused by excessive fluoride content in drinking water — in the north districts of Punjab, including Patiala, Ludhiana and Jalandhar.
Claims by Dr Gagan Deep Singh, who practises at a charitable hospital in Mohali and has compiled data related to the disease in a study spanning four years, have already been iterated in studies carried out by medical institutions earlier. He said that he compiled data of patients with the disease coming to him and found that there were 1,174 cases of skeletal fluorosis in 2013, and these rose to 1,543 in 2014, 1,864 in 2015 and 2,134 in 2016. “This suggests that the situation is turning grave with each year,” he said.
Already, a large number of cases of skeletal fluorosis have been reported from southern parts of the state, including Ferozepur, Faridkot and Bathinda districts, due the presence of high fluoride content in drinking water.
In skeletal fluorosis, fluoride in drinking water gets accumulated in the bones and weakens them. The disease can be crippling for a patient.
Dr Gagan said he was intrigued by multiple cases of skeletal fluorosis that started arriving at his hospital in 2013. Worried over the rise in number of these cases, he started asking patients with symptoms of the bone disease to bring water samples that they consume. “The test results confirmed the presence of high fluoride content,” he said.
The doctor said pain in the joints, teeth, muscles, stomach and head — the symptoms of the disease — were common among people coming to his hospital from Patiala, Rajpura, Nabha, Sanour, Sirhindi, Fatehgarh Sahib, Doraha, Ludhiana and some patients had even come from Jalandhar.
A few studies that were published in some of the renowned journals last year have also established prevalence of fluoride and even nitrate in groundwater in the state. A study by Government Medical College, Patiala, in 2016 had come out with stats similar to that by Dr Gagan. The 2016 study had claimed that while cases of skeletal fluorosis were found in most of the areas that were studied, crippling fluorosis, which is an advance stage of this disease, were also found in some areas, including Barnala.
Dr Gagan said he would soon be sending his report to the state health and other departments, so that the authorities could take an informed decision while planning and executing projects to ensure supply of safe drinking water in the state.
RO project ineffective
The state government has not been able to effectively take its ambitious project of setting up RO water purification systems in villages, to the northern districts of the state. The state government had kept its focus on southern districts for the project because of the high number cancer cases reported from the region. Because of this, most villages in northern districts of the state continue to be without purification systems and villagers end up consuming water with high fluoride content. In many villages, these RO systems are not working, admitted a senior official of the state’s water supply and sanitation department on condition of anonymity.