Fluoride Action Network

Andhra ground water too dangerous to drink

Source: The Times of India | April 16th, 2013 | By Bushra Baseerat
Location: India

HYDERABAD: Ground water in most districts of Andhra Pradesh has become unsuitable for drinking due to high content of fluoride, nitrate and iron, according to a new Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) report, which scientists said could be linked to the spike in cases of cancer, birth defects, miscarriages and fluorosis in the state.

According to the latest CGWB report tabled in Lok Sabha last month, ground water in 20 districts (except East Godavari, Nizamabad and Srikakulam) was found to have concentration of fluoride above 1.5 mg per litre and all the 23 districts were found to have presence of nitrate, above the permissible limit of 45 mg per litre.

“The water is too dangerous to drink. Up to 2 mg per litre of fluoride content leads to dental fluorosis. Depending on the length of the exposure, it affects different tissues in the human body affecting teeth, bones, making them brittle and also causing ageing,” said Dr Arjun L Khandare, deputy director, National Institute of Nutrition. “A 30-year-old suffering from fluorosis looks like a 40-45-year-old.”

Experts said fluoride and nitrate contamination in ground water are the two major concerns in Andhra Pradesh and overuse of complex fertilizers by famers with wrong disposal of waste water from the fields has led daily increase in nitrate pollution, said Dr M V S R Krishnamurthy, water analyst, Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project, Andhra Pradesh.

The report spells bad news for the state government which is already struggling with diminishing ground water levels in most parts of the state and experts said in summer, people will be left with no choice but to depend on ground water.

Estimates suggest that 60-70% of the population drink ground water of which just 10-20% is treated water. “With cooking gas prices increasing, many have even stopped boiling the water,” said Dr D Narasimha Reddy, convener of Joint Action for Water, a Hyderabad-based think tank.

Presence of iron was also found to be beyond the prescribed norms of 1 mg per litre in 15 districts including Hyderabad, Ranga Reddy and Visakhapatnam.

Experts said high incidence of kidney disease in pockets of Nellore, Prakasam and Srikakulam districts could be linked to ground water contamination and presence of silicon and strontium in water, not covered by the CGWB report does.

Out of an estimated 54,000 detected new cases of cancer every year in the state, bulk comes from these districts, doctors say.

“Research is underway to establish whether these metals are triggering kidney disease in these districts,” said Dr T Gangadhar, nephrologist at Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences and part of the ongoing study.

He says that even in Hyderabad industries are pumping waste directly into the ground and contaminating ground water.

The CGWB report has warned that high content of fluoride, nitrate and iron, was a cause for grave concern in Delhi and 19 other states.

Poison springs

Fluoride content in ground water in 20 districts are above 1.5 mg per litre.

High fluoride content in water can lead to dental fluorosis, brittle bones and quick ageing.

Due to overuse of fertilizers and wrong disposal of waste water, nitrate pollution in ground water is increasing.

Presence of iron beyond prescribed norms of 1 mg per litre in 15 districts, including Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam.