Fluoride toxicosis, commonly referred to as fluorosis, has caused an alarming situation in some villages of Birbhum district. Nasipur and its adjoining villages, 10 km west of Nalhati railway station, are the worst affected. In the first week of this month, I saw hordes of children and adults suffering from this painful water-borne ailment. Some of them need a stick to walk. It has even caused dental problems among children many of whom have red, horizontal lines on their teeth. Experts say the problem has been endemic over the past 20 years in more than 40 blocks of Birbhum, Bankura, Purulia, Burdwan and West Dinajpur districts.
Before 1980, the villagers used to suffer from enteric diseases, but fluorosis was unknown. Afflictions surfaced when tubewells were dug. The fluoride content in the groundwater at Nasipur is as high as 16 mg per litre. The permissible limit, according to WHO guidelines, is 1.5 mg per litre. There seems to be no prevention or cure. India’s position in the world fluorosis map is quite prominent. Nearly 70 to 80 million people are affected and it has been declared endemic in 15 states, including Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu.
The groundwater is prone to contamination by fluoride toxicosis in Birbhum, Bankura, Purulia and West Midnapore districts because of geo-climatic features. I was told at Nalhati that West Bengal’s Public Health Engineering Department and the Central Ground Water Board are seized of the matter. But no action was visible in the villages, crying out for immediate attention. A crippling disease has afflicted the people.
Yours, etc., MN Majumder,
(Retired Professor of Chemistry, Kalyani University)
Kalyani, 11 July