Tainted water: How a crippling bone disease is linked to drought in India

Source(s)
Telegraph Media Group Limited

By Catherine Davison

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Prevalent across rural India, fluorosis is caused by excessive consumption of the mineral fluoride, usually through drinking contaminated groundwater. As fluoride builds up in the body it leads to skeletal deformities.

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It is an affliction all too familiar to many residents of drought-prone Nalgonda, where up to 69 per cent of the residents are estimated to be affected to some extent by the condition.

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Naturally high levels of fluoride in the rocks, combined with an increasing dependence on drinking water sourced from boreholes drilled deep into the ground where the water is more likely to be contaminated, have resulted in fluoride levels in some village water sources of over 10 parts per million, almost seven times the maximum level recommended by the World Health Organization.

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With climate change set to exacerbate India’s already widespread water crisis, more and more of the population will be forced to rely on groundwater as their primary or sole source of water for drinking and crop irrigation, putting them at increasing risk of excessive fluoride intake. 

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