New Delhi: Lack of clean drinking water has put over 11.5 million people of India at a very high risk of fluorosis—a crippling bone disease.

The ministry of health & family welfare has identified at least 132 districts in 19 states severely affected by high fluoride content in drinking water, a leading cause of fluorosis.

Uttar Pradesh has 75 districts, Madhya Pradesh 51, Bihar 38, and Rajasthan 33 districts whose people are at a very high risk of fluorosis.

Fluorosis, a chronic public health problem, is caused by excess intake of fluoride through drinking water or food products or industrial pollutants over a long period. It results in major health disorders like dental fluorosis, skeletal fluorosis and non-skeletal fluorosis. Dental fluorosis affects children and discolours and disfigures the teeth. The teeth could be chalky white and may have white, yellow, brown or black spots or streaks on the enamel surface.

Skeletal fluorosis affects the bones and major joints of the body like the neck, back bone, shoulder, hip and knee joints, causing severe pain, rigidity or stiffness in the joints. In severe, forms it results in marked disability.

The union health ministry, under its National Programme of Prevention and Control of Fluorosis (NPPCF), in association with the ministry of drinking water and sanitation, has started a baseline survey to assess the actual burden of the disease in identified states.

“Fluoride prevalence was earlier reported in 230 districts of 19 states. As per present data from ministry of drinking water and sanitation, there are 14,035 habitations (as on 1 April, 2016) from 17 states which are yet to be provided with safe drinking water. The population at risk based on population in habitations with high fluoride in drinking water is 11.53 million,” said Jagdish Prasad, director general of health services (DGHS) in the union health ministry.

The NPPCF aims to prevent and control Fluorosis cases in the country. The union health ministry will assess and use the baseline survey data of fluorosis of the ministry of drinking water and sanitation and aims to build capacity for prevention, diagnosis and management of fluorosis through medication and surgery.

“With scaling efforts in this direction, at least 85 districts have established labs with ion meter to find the level of fluoride content in water. Also, a video documentary film on fluorosis in eight regional languages i.e. Assamese, Telugu, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya and Bengali is under progress for creating awareness,” said Prasad.

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