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Many Odisha schoolchildren hit by fluoride contamination

Prolonged consumption of fluoride-contaminated water leads to dental fluorosis.

Prolonged consumption of fluoride-contaminated water leads to dental fluorosis.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Water sources in 54 schools and anganwadis show high fluoride presence

The spectre of fluoride contamination has come to haunt schoolchildren in Odisha’s Nuapada district with potable water sources in as many as 54 schools and anganwadi premises testing for fluoride presence beyond permissible limits.

Prolonged consumption of fluoride-contaminated water leads to dental and skeletal fluorosis. Commonly, mottled teeth and crippled backbone and limbs are manifestation of the disease.

Health hazard

Consumption of water having fluoride content above 1.5 mg per litre is considered dangerous to health.

An alarming level of fluoride presence has been found in Bharuamunda High School in Sinapali block of Nuapada. Laboratory tests certified by the National Rural Drinking Water Programme under the Union Drinking Water and Sanitation Ministry found 5.25 mg per litre fluoride content in water sourced from a tube well in the school. Water of another tube well dug recently on the school premises has not been tested.

As many as 232 students, including 65 hostel boarders, of the school have little option for safe drinking water as water samples from 15 sources in Bharuamunda village sent for laboratory tests confirmed fluoride contamination in 2018-19.

“It is very important to make immediate alternative arrangement for safe drinking water for students. Adverse impact of fluoride contamination is very high on children. Bones in children are in formation stage while fluoride tends to damage bones,” said Bimal Pandia, an expert on water.

Mr. Pandia said the State government should make fresh health assessment of all students consuming fluoride-laced water and try to find out if they have developed dental fluorosis. “Once their backbone and limbs are affected subsequent to dental fluorosis, it will be difficult to cure the disease,” he pointed out.

Drinking water sources in 45 schools and nine anganwadi centres of the district have been found to have fluoride content beyond permissible levels. The number of affected schools could be more as drinking water sources were randomly chosen for testing.

Government estimate says Nuapada has a total of 2,784 habitation. Fluoride content was found beyond permissible level of 1.5 gram per litre in 905 habitations. The fluoride content in water varies from 0.14 - 7.2 gram per litre in Nuapada.

“We have long been struggling to find a solution to fluoride contamination in our region. Now, we are pushing our next generation into a health mess. The State government must come out with alternative arrangement to keep students safe,” said Priya Ranjan Meher, a Zilla Parishad member in Nuapada.

Nuapada is not a lone case where drinking water has fluoride presence. In 2018-19, drinking water sources in eight schools in Nayagarh, seven in Balangir and eight in Kalahandi districts were found to be fluoride contaminated.

In 2017-18, as many as 1,341 drinking water sources in Odisha were fluoride contaminated. Nuapada with 707 contaminated sources led the table.

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Printable version | Feb 23, 2020 8:35:07 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/many-odisha-schoolchildren-hit-by-fluoride-contamination/article24971972.ece

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