Fluorosis is a bone disease that is caused by a high consumption of fluoride. Most think that it is a direct result of drinking water with high fluoride content alone but it isn’t so. Nutrition plays an important role in the onset of this disease. Including vitamin C and calcium in our diets as well as modifying cooking methods to lessen the absorption of fluoride from cooking water are crucial to preventing fluorosis.
The IWMI Tata meet in November 2012 brought together a host of speakers who highlighted the importance of this subject and the lack of awareness about it in India today.
Raja Reddy, of Apollo Hospital, has been studying this disease for more than 3 decades. His research has shown him that fluorosis is more easily prevented than later cured. He links fluorosis directly to nutrition levels in India and feels that if this link is not recognised, then containing fluorosis is next to impossible.
Suneetha Sapur, the founder and director of Akkshaya Foundation, agreed with Dr. Reddy that fluorosis was increasing in India. Poor maternal and child nutrition were two big contributors to this increase. Pregnant women were not aware that they needed to eat more than non-pregnant women, and that extra calcium was important for their bones.
Aditi Mukherji, Senior researcher at IWMI (New Delhi) presented options for decreasing arsenic buildup in food including modified cooking methods. Arsenic is present in groundwater to varying degrees and increased consumption of this contaminant can lead to a potentially fatal condition called arsenicosis. According to the World Health Organization,the disease manifests itself through skin problems (such as colour changes on the skin, and hard patches on the palms and soles of the feet), skin cancer, cancers of the bladder, kidney and lung, and diseases of the blood vessels of the legs and feet, and possibly also diabetes, high blood pressure and reproductive disorders.This is caused by drinking arsenic-rich water and eating foods that are either grown or cooked using arsenic-contaminated water.
Leela Iyengar, of IIT Kanpur, talked of the chemical reasons behind people's vulnerability to fluorosis . She explained that our surroundings were full of various compounds or contaminants. When these contaminants have an adverse effect on human health, they are termed as pollutants. This adverse effect is caused due to stress caused by oxidation of the chemicals in our bodies. Iyengar explained the mechanism of this stress and means of combating it.
Sumeet Ahluwalia, Head of HealthOperations at HealthPoint Services (I) Private Limited, explained how eHealthpoint, a for-profit organization providing curative health care in rural areas, provides reverse osmosis-treated water to areas where the water is high in fluoride.
Sunderrajan Krishnan, Director, INREM Foundation opined that safe drinking water and access to adequate nutritious food when addressed together will ensure long term health for India.