Pollution of ground water in Bangalore city has touched alarming levels with unacceptable levels of hardness, fluoride, nitrate and chromium recorded in a recent study by the Geological Survey of India.
Citizens face the risk of kidney, liver, lung and brain damage, even as the blood is starved of oxygen due to various pollutants. Children are particularly vulnerable and doctors warn against prolonged use of untested water.
Dr A C Ramesh, Professor and HOD Paediatrics, Kempegowda Institute of Medical Sciences (KIMS), said that nitrate content in water affects the health of infants and growing children.
“Consuming water with high nitrate levels affects their metabolism. The organs mainly affected are the kidneys, liver and lungs. Prolonged exposure may cause brain damage,” he explained.
A report published by the Geological Society of India last month outlined the hard facts of Bangalore’s ground water on hardness, nitrate, fluoride and chromium.
Against a permissible level of 50 mg per litre, Bangalore’s water ranges from 16 to 2,720 mg per litre. In some samples, fluoride, which affects bones and teeth, is up to 5.3 mg against a permissible level of 1.2 mg per litre.
Nitrate, which affects the blood cells, varies from 16 to 554 mg against a permissible level of 50 mg per litre. And chromium has touched a dangerous 17 mg per litre against the maximum permissible level of 0.05 mg.
The report has been prepared on the basis of submissions made by experts from different departments, including Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) and Mines and Geology Department in a panel discussion on “Water Security in Bangalore”, organised by the society recently.
CGWB director Dr Najeeb K Md blamed Bangalore’s indiscriminate dumping of waste as the source of this pollution. “Hardness and fluoride contamination happens in nature too, but the nitrate and chromium pollution is caused by the indiscriminate dumping of waste and discharge of effluents. The pollution levels are alarming”, Najeeb declared.
Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) director Dr Najeeb K Md pointed out that the inefficient garbage disposal system led people to dump garbage in open areas. “The nitrates in garbage seeps into the groundwater when it rains. Indiscriminate discharge of effluents has led to chromium contamination in the industrial areas of the city,” he added.
Dr Najeeb said the nitrates in the water react with the haemoglobin in the blood to produce methemoglobin, which impairs the capacity of the red blood cells to carry oxygen to different parts of the body.
“It also causes methemoglobinemia, or blue baby syndrome, a condition in which newborn babies die due to lack of oxygen supply. It is advisable to get the ground water source tested periodically”, he said.
Dr Vijayashree, Faculty, Institute of Public Health, said short-term consequences of drinking water having high fluoride levels are not very serious. “But prolonged exposure may lead to stunted growth in children and weaken bones in adults. It also causes the bones to get very brittle and teeth tend to get discoloured in the long run,” she said.