Hatathigad (Amreli), May 10: Sandhiben can’t sit up on the bed without an effort. She uses a rope tied to the ceiling to pull herself up and finally manages to get out of the bed with a little help from her grandson. Not many will believe that she is just 45. Fluorosis has added years to her age.

Doctors say consumption of water with perilously high levels of dissolved fluorides has caused calcification of ligaments that bind her joints. As a result, Sandhiben’s joints in the elbows, knees, ankles, wrists, knuckles and the spinal column have hardened, bent and become stiff.

In parched Liliya, Amreli district, water is drawn from such depth that it is heavily contaminated with fluorides. Water with as low as one part per million (ppm) of fluorides is considered unfit for human consumption. According to a Dutch survey, the fluoride content here is 5ppm.

The decay caused by fluorosis catches people early, and teeth are the first casualty. Every home here has a child who can be seen in a queue outside the Liliya Community Health Centre.

The wait is for dental surgeon L.S. Tomar. ‘‘Over the years, cases of stiffened joints, extra bone formations, twisted spinal columns and spondylitis have become common among villagers of all ages. Babies are born with extra formations and children’s teeth start decaying early,’’ says Tomar.

Some 7,000 people are said to be suffering from fluorosis in the region. The Liliya municipality admits to supplying fluoride-rich water, but blames it on acute shortage. People are unwilling to drink the fresh water brought by the Narmada Mahi-Pariaj pipeline. Former sarpanch Valabhai says: ‘‘The Narmada water is not filtered and directly put into the distribution line.’’

Tomar pitches in favour of the Narmada water: ‘‘This water is definitely better. They had better drink it if they want to save themselves.’’