Balasore: Health experts from New Delhi visited fluorosis-affected villages in Remuna and Bhogarai blocks of Balasore district on Friday and Saturday. The disease has affected children and the elderly of at least five villages.

The team, comprising Rajnarayan Indu and Sunderrajan Krishnan from Fluoride Knowledge and Action Network, Sundar M Senthilnathan from Arghyam and Utkarsha Bhardwaj from Swaniti Initiative, a non-profit organization working on data insights, toured Baharda, Phartipur and Kuanrpur villages under Patripal panchayat in Remuna block and Jayrampur panchayat in Bhogarai block.

They interacted with some affected persons, including children, inspected various sources of drinking water and collected water samples from tubewells and nearby river, pond and nullahs. The team suspects contaminated water from tubewells might be a reason behind spread of the disease in the region. The groundwater too is high in fluoride content.

The team’s visit came close on the heels of Balasore MP Rabindra Kumar Jena expressing concern over the issue with the department concerned and seeking immediate measures to save the life of poor and unsuspecting residents. The experts are likely to recommend suggestive measures to the government and issue an advisory for the villagers on ways to protect themselves from the disease.

Sources said Patripal panchayat has been identified as a fluoride-affected area. A survey conducted by the Environmental Science Department of F M University recently indicated that several people in this region are suffering from either dental or skeletal fluorosis. High concentration of fluoride in the water sources in some localities such as Nuagan, Chakulia, Baharda, Kuanrpur is a cause of concern.

The level of fluoride found here ranges from 0.6 mg/L to 5.83 mg/L against the permissible level of 1.5 mg/L. According to a study, 70% of villagers here are prone to fluorosis.

People sink deep wells and unknowingly harvest poisonous water and are finally caught up in the trap of irreversible fluorosis. The villagers have very poor awareness about water quality and the availability of fluoride-free or de-mineralized water. Even if it is available, their poor affordability prevents them from purchasing it, the team observed.