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Fluoride Contamination in Water

Fluoride Contamination in Water


Recently, Fluoride contamination was detected in three districts of Kerala.

Background – Fluoride Contamination in Water

According to the State Environment department, the source of contamination is likely geogenic, meaning these constituents are naturally present in the rock or soil matrix and enter groundwater through various chemical processes.

About Fluoride Contamination in Water

  • Fluoride contamination in water is a critical issue worldwide.
  • While fluoride is essential for dental health at low concentrations, excessive exposure can lead to health problems.

Key Points – Fluoride Contamination in Water

  • Essential Element: Fluoride is naturally present in water and certain foods. It plays a crucial role in preventing tooth decay.
  • Threshold: However, when fluoride levels exceed 1.5 mg/L, it becomes toxic to humans. According to the Bureau of Indian Standards, the maximum permissible limit of arsenic in groundwater meant for drinking is 0.01 mg/l, while the corresponding limit of fluoride is 1.0 mg/l, which can be extended to 1.5 mg/l in case no alternative source of water is available.

Health Impacts

  • Dental Fluorosis: Excessive fluoride causes dental fluorosis, characterized by staining, pitting, and weakening of tooth enamel.
  • Skeletal Fluorosis: Chronic exposure leads to skeletal fluorosis, affecting bones and joints.
  • Neurological Effects: High fluoride levels may impact the nervous system.

Sources of Contamination

  • Geochemical Reactions: Fluoride leaches from rocks and soil into groundwater.
  • Geological Factors: High fluoride content in specific geological formations.
  • Anthropogenic Factors: Industrial processes, fertilizers, and mining contribute to contamination.

Preventive Measures

  • Water Treatment: Implementing effective water treatment methods to reduce fluoride levels.
  • Monitoring: Regular monitoring of fluoride content in drinking water.
  • Awareness: Educating communities about safe water practices.
  • Alternative Sources: Providing alternative water sources in affected areas.
  • Endemic Areas: Certain regions are endemic for fluorosis due to natural geological factors.
  • Balancing Act: Balancing the benefits of fluoride for dental health with the risks of toxicity is crucial.

Other Pollutants that Affect Water Quality

  • Arsenic reaches groundwater through industrial and mining discharges, as well as fly ash ponds from thermal power plants. Chronic exposure to arsenic contaminated water may lead to diseases such as black foot disease, diarrhea, lung cancer, and skin cancer.
  • Certain regions in India have localized occurrences of elevated uranium concentrations in groundwater.
  • Other elements that act as water pollutants include mercury (causing Minamata disease), cadmium (associated with Itai-Itai disease and nephritis), chromium (linked to lung cancer and reduced photosynthetic activities in plants), copper (causing various health issues), zinc, and lead (associated with anaemia, mental retardation, and other health problems).

Read also: Microplastics Found in Human Hearts

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