Water a life-giving liquid can also be a life-taking lethal fluid. Around 3.1% of deaths in the world are due to unhygienic and poor quality of water.
The World Health Organization estimates that 80% of diseases worldwide are waterborne.
Alarmingly, groundwater in one-third of India’s 600 districts is deemed unfit for drinking – with dangerous levels of fluoride, iron, salinity and arsenic. About 65 million people suffer from fluorosis, a crippling disease caused by excess fluoride – a condition commonly found in the Rajasthan state region, in northern India.
A World Resources Report from the Washington DC-based World Resources Institute labelled a shocking 70 per cent of India’s water supply as being seriously polluted. The United Nations also ranked India’s water quality at a horrifying 120th among 122 nations in the quality of water available for human consumption – 122nd being the worst.
Poor water quality becomes inevitable when water gets polluted with industrial waste, human waste, animal waste, garbage, untreated sewage, chemical effluents, etc. Drinking or cooking with such polluted water leads to waterborne diseases and infections such as amoebiasis, giardiasis, and toxoplasmosis.
Contaminated water could carry viruses such as Hepatitis A and E, bacteria like E.coli (E.coli can be passed from hand to hand, such as via vendors of street food or food handled by someone carrying E.coli bacteria. It can lead to food poisoning). The result: dangerous diseases like cholera and typhoid fever. Other waterborne diseases include diarrhoea, dysentery, polio and meningitis.
Unclean water for washing can cause skin and infectious eye disease such as Trachoma. Trachoma can lead to visual impairment or blindness.
Rural populations are more at risk from waterborne illnesses, but everyone faces risks of polluted or contaminated water. Waterborne illness can affect anyone, anywhere. The risk is more for infants, younger children, the elderly and patients of diabetes, chronic diseases of heart disease, kidney, etc.
Precautions to prevent waterborne disease:
- Ensure the water is visibly clean and free from sand and silt. Filter the water to get rid of visible dirt.
- Drink only clean and safe water – either portable water or water filtered through water purifiers.
- Get water purifying devices like filters, RO unit, etc., regularly serviced and maintained.
- Ensure stored water is germ-free.
- Add antiseptic liquid, such as Dettol in dubious-looking bathing water.
- Hand hygiene – regularly wash hands with soap after returning home, after using the toilet, before and after preparing food, before eating or drinking anything.
- Teach hand hygiene to children. Children should make it a habit to always wash hands when returning home after playing games.
- Ensure food is washed and thoroughly cooked.
- Use disposable glass and plates whenever possible when eating outside food, particularly street food.
- Avoid eating stale cooked food, unrefrigerated food kept exposed outside for long hours.
- Take vaccinations for immunization against preventable diseases like Typhoid, Hepatitis A, Polio, etc.