CHENNAI: “When will you give people of this district safe drinking water?” This question will soon be posed by health department officials from across the country to district officials, including collectors, at weekly review meetings. Health department staff in every district have been asked to make this question part of the list of demands at the meetings that are a part of the national programme for fight against fluorosis.
At a national-level workshop on fluorosis here on Tuesday, director-general of health services RK Srivatsava urged health department officials to ensure clean, safe potable water to the people. “It’s a priority. No official can deny this. There are provisions available in the National Rural Health Mission for us to demand and the people will be on your side when you put pressure for safe water,” he told representatives from across the country. Guidelines for officials to battle against fluorosis were formulated.
According to statistics with the health ministry, at least 200 districts in the country are endemic to the disease with about 25 million people affected. “There are 66 million people, including 6 million children below 14 years, at risk,” Srivatsava said. While all of Rajasthan is endemic, 18 districts in Gujarat and an equal number in Karnataka, Orissa and Uttar Pradesh are endemic. In Tamil Nadu, 8 districts are endemic to this disease.
Fluorosis, caused by an excess intake of fluoride, affects several vital organs. The onset is marked by non-skeletal changes that can easily be reversed by safe drinking water and nutritional intervention. But if left untreated, it can develop into dental and crippling fluorosis, experts warned.
“There are instances where intervention has showed positive results. We must be able to replicate this success in other districts,” Srivatsava said.
“Adequate intake of calcium, Vitamin E, Vitamin C and antioxidants will make a huge difference in the early stages of the disease. And advice has to be made considering affordability,” he said.
While states like Orissa said they would require orthopaedic surgeons to operate on those affected, south Indian states said linking rivers would be a long-term solution. “The national commission of water says at least 60% of potable water is let into the sea. If we network rivers, we would be giving people a healthier option,” said Tamil Nadu director of public health Dr S Elango.