World Water Day: 4 crore Indians at risk due to water laced with heavy metals

March 22 is World Water Day. Due to industrialisation, drinking water is being contaminated with metals and is causing health problems in the country. From cancer to a negative impact on cognitive development, metal contaminated water is causing many health issues

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Health experts suggest that there are many grave health hazards of this water, which might even lead to death. In drinking water, the presence of heavy metals is a threat to human health. People exposed to heavy metals through water consumption are vulnerable to cancer and other risks.

Dr Manoj Lonkar, chief of sanitation and health wing at Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation, said, “We have checked mechanisms which ensure that metal contaminated water is not supplied. In rural areas of different states, due to heavy industrialisation ensuring this has become tough. But, we always test water which is supplied.”

As per the latest data from the Integrated Management Information System (IMIS) of the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, around 4 crore Indians in rural India are drinking metal contaminated water.

Dr Apurva Chavan, the dermatologist at Ruby said, “The first symptoms of long-term exposure to high levels of inorganic arsenic is usually observed in the skin, and include pigmentation changes, skin lesions and hard patches on the palms and soles of the feet (hyperkeratosis). These occur after a minimum exposure of approximately five years and may be a precursor to skin cancer.”

The data conveys that in more than 16 states, a rural population of more than one lakh is depending on metal contaminated water. Heavy metals like fluoride, arsenic, and nitrate are found in drinking water.

Dr Minish Jain, an oncologist from Pune, said, “In addition to skin cancer, long-term exposure to arsenic and fluoride may also cause cancers of the bladder and lungs. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified arsenic and arsenic compounds as carcinogenic to humans, and has also stated that arsenic in drinking water is carcinogenic to humans.”

While Dr Ramesh Bhosale, a gynaecologist from Pune, said, “Foetus and a pregnant woman are most susceptible to health effects of lead-contaminated water. Children drinking lead-contaminated water, research has found that intellectual ability and behaviour gets affected.”