Impacts of groundwater contamination with Fluoride and Arsenic: A report by CAREWATER

The impacts of groundwater contamination with fluoride and arsenic in India


The field research study conducted by Carewater INREM Foundation attempts to establish the impacts of groundwater contamination with fluoride and arsenic in India. It maps the affliction severity, the medical cost and wage loss through a multi-location study in some villages in the States of Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and West Bengal.

In India, high fluoride concentrations in groundwater (greater than 1 mg/litre) are widespread in the arid to semi-arid western states of Rajasthan and Gujarat and in the southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. 

The study at some locations severely affected by fluorosis shows that affordability of safer drinking water is related with higher income level and that the severity of fluorosis affliction is higher for lower income levels. The cost incurred from medicines and loss of wages is a significant proportion of the earnings and has a general debilitating impact on the affected families.

As compared with fluorosis, the skin afflictions of arsenicosis carry greater social stigma and incur higher costs on patients. In the fluoride affected areas, data shows that for these villages, 35 per cent people are affected by at least one symptom of fluorosis. When the affliction is categorized into different levels of severity, it is found that sixteen per cent of the population is severely affected in these villages.

Poverty is linked with poor nutrition, which makes people more prone to fluorosis problems. In both cases, for fluoride as well as arsenic, already poverty-prone, these families are unable to afford any water treatment systems that can provide them safe quality water.

Cumulatively over the entire afflicted population, both fluoride and arsenic contamination have a high cost on society and addressing the problem would require more attention from government agencies and society apart from individual awareness.

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