With drinking water in 14,132 habitations in 19 States still containing fluoride above the permissible levels, the Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry fears that a huge population is at risk of serious health conditions such as skeletal fluorosis.
The Ministry has now urged the Drinking Water and Sanitation Ministry to ensure the supply of safe drinking water in these habitations.
Data collated by the latter say Rajasthan has the highest number of such habitations (7,670), affecting 48,84,613 people. Telangana has 1,174 such districts with 19,22,783 affected people. Karnataka has 1,122 such districts and Madhya Pradesh 1,055. Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chattisgarh, Maharashtra, Odisha, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh too face the problem.
The World Health Organization guideline value for fluoride is 1.5 mg per litre, with a target of between 0.8 and 1.2 mg per litre to maximise benefits and minimise harmful effects. Fluoride levels in the body depend on climate and intake of the chemical from drinking water and other sources, the WHO says.
Fluoride contamination affects the teeth and bones and long-term excessive exposure causes abdominal pain, excessive saliva, nausea, vomiting, seizures and muscle spasms.
The WHO says fluroide levels above 1.5 mg per litre causes pitting of tooth enamel and deposits in bones. Levels above 10 mg per litre cause the crippling skeletal fluorosis.
The government has started the National Programme for Prevention and Control of Fluorosis in 2008-09. In 2013-14, the programme was brought under the National Rural Health Mission, which has so far covered 111 districts.
The programme includes surveillance of fluorosis in the community, training and manpower support, establishment of diagnostic facilities, treatment and health education. The Indian Council of Medical Research has formed a task force on fluorosis to address issues related to prevention and control.