5 Life-threatening Diseases Caused by Water Pollution
Water-borne pathogens and related diseases are an alarming public health concern at present. In India it is estimated that around 37.7 million people are affected by diseases caused by water pollution annually, and 1.5 million children meet tragic ends due to diarrhoea.
Safe and readily available water is salient for public health and hygiene. The shortage of clean water, inadequate sanitation, and subpar environmental status contribute to the rapid transmission of water-borne diseases.
What Are the Diseases Caused by Water Pollution?
Contaminated water is responsible for the occurrence of several contagious diseases. Acute diseases caused due to water pollution are as follows:
Cholera is a grave intestinal tract infection caused by the strains of the bacterium vibrio cholera. According to WHO, around 4 million cholera cases are reported every year.
The symptoms of this disease include severe diarrhoea, which results in dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. It spreads by drinking unsafe water and contaminated food. Undercooked seafood is also a source from which the disease can spread.
Also known as typhoid fever, typhoid is one of the common water pollution diseases, caused by salmonella typhi bacteria. It is common in rural parts of the country with inadequate personal hygiene and sanitation.
Symptoms include gradual onset of fever accompanied by weakness, constipation, abdominal pain, headaches, mild vomiting, loss of appetite etc. People also develop skin rashes known as “rose-spots”. Besides, typhoid can have severe consequences if proper treatment is not provided. The disease transmits from the urine and faeces of the affected individual.
It is a threatening disease resulting from contaminated water and is caused due to the presence of a water-borne pathogen known as Giardia Lamblia. This disease mainly affects the small intestine. It results from the consumption of infected or raw food or water. It is one of the most common diseases caused by water pollution, especially in areas with a lack of sanitation.
10% of the population do not acquire any symptoms; however, those who experience symptoms suffer from diarrhoea, weight loss, blood in stool, and other complexities.
Arsenicosis is a disease caused by water pollution. It is also known as arsenic poisoning and occurs due to the excessive level of arsenic in the body, resulting from the chronic consumption of contaminated water. The groundwater contaminates naturally, sometimes due to prolonged mining, smelting etc.
The symptoms include encephalopathy, diarrhoea, vomiting. Furthermore, with long term exposure, one can develop symptoms like abdominal pain, heart disease etc.
Poliomyelitis, commonly known as polio, is one of the dangerous diseases caused by water pollution. It affects the central nervous system resulting in flaccid paralysis and spreads through water contaminated with faeces of the infected individual and less likely from the infected saliva.
The disease makes the body muscles extremely weak. People without vaccine doses are susceptible to the disease.
Other diseases spread through water pollution are Dracunculiasis, Norovirus, Rotavirus, Cyclosporiasis, Hepatitis, Fascioliasis etc.
What Are the Water Pollutants That Cause Diseases?
The introduction of undesirable substances in the water that alters the normal water concentration causes water pollution. Generally, two major categories of pollutants contaminate water:
Chemicals: It comprises organic and inorganic pollutants. Both are discharges from sewage and industrial effluents. Inorganic pollutants such as sulphates, cyanides, phosphates, nitrates, and mercury threaten aquatic flora and fauna and human health. These pollutants are highly mutagenic, Non-biodegradable and carcinogenic. Organic pollutants include pesticides, fertilisers, agricultural run-off, debris carried to water bodies from the land.
Pathogen: Pathogens like bacteria, protozoa, viruses are common pollutants responsible for numerous outbreaks like cholera, dysentery etc. The most common pathogenic bacteria are coliform, E. coli bacteria. Furthermore, the agricultural sector disposes of the bulk of waste in the water.
In addition to these contaminants, industries and individuals dump other hazardous water pollutants, including faecal waste, plastics, and radioactive elements, in the water body. The sources of coastal water contamination include oil spill.
What Are the Harmful Effects of Water-Borne Diseases?
Most water-borne diseases affect the digestive system, leading to severe diarrhoea and poisoning episodes. Kidney damage and neurological problems are also pertinent. The nervous system damages when exposed to chemicals like DDT. Chemicals in water destroy the ability to breed and tamper with the immunity system.
Chemicals like perchlorate knock down the thyroid system. Escalating water pollution is the breeding ground for malaria-carrying mosquitoes.
Furthermore, many serious ailments occur with bathing in contaminated water like pink eyes, rashes, etc.
Contaminated water is toxic to both humans and the environment. It is the outcome of the faecal-oral route of infection. Regular consumption of infected water is hazardous for even the respiratory system and also causes cardiovascular diseases. Overall, water pollution and diseases related to it are an alarming issue in this era.
In India, around 80% of stomach ailments result from insufficient clean water and inadequate sanitation.
Diseases caused by polluted water is directly related to environmental deterioration and degradation.
What Are the Risk Factors Associated With Diseases Caused by Water Pollution?
The rapid growth of population and industrialisation contributes to the entire equation of water pollution. Millions of people face the wrath of the diseases caused by drinking polluted water.
- Pathogens and chemicals are increasing in the water body with every passing day. Presence of contaminants leads to severe health problems. Diseases caused by polluted water affects infants, pregnant women, aged persons, and individuals with ruptured immunity systems because of AIDS, chemotherapy, etc.
- Furthermore, radioactive wastes dumped in the water body causes diseases like cancer, acute radiation syndrome etc. Radionuclides get into groundwater; they break down and emit harmful alpha, beta and gamma radiation. Alpha particles, when ingested, damage internal cell tissue.
- Water-borne bacterial infection often results in severe gastroenteritis. Symptoms include nausea, abdominal cramping etc. Chronic health effects of exposure to inorganic arsenic involve lung cancer, bladder cancer, Blackfoot disease; it also causes heart disease.
- Chemicals like Nitrates are converted to Nitrites by certain bacteria present in our intestine, resulting in severe water pollution-related diseases like nitrate poisoning. Long-term exposure can result in conditions like methemoglobinemia, characterised by the blue colouration of skin, severe headaches, breathing troubles etc. An extreme form of the disease may lead to seizures and possibly leading to death.
- Moreover, severe exposure to DBPs (Disinfection By-Products) may result in bladder cancer, colon or rectal cancer, blood and even brain cancer. It also lowers the birth weight of infants and results in shortened pregnancies and short body structure. Diseases spread through water pollution leads to an unfortunate and threatening outcome.
What Are the Preventive Measures to Control Disease Caused by Water Pollution?
Government plays a vital role in curbing diseases caused by water pollution by improving the availability of clean drinking water and sanitation. Individuals can prevent several water-borne infections by ensuring their drinking water comes from a fresh source and generating awareness about different water treatment methods like filtration and disinfection. However, there are several ways to prevent various diseases caused by water pollution:
- Drink clean and fresh water, one which is filtered
- Maintaining hand hygiene is mandatory.
- Make sure that the food you are having is washed and properly cooked.
- Avoid eating stale and unrefrigerated food.
- Opting for chemical methods like reverse osmosis, coagulation etc., to prevent water pollution.
- Treat the sewage waste before disposing of it in the water body.
There are many other measures to curb harmful water pollutants, thereby reducing the rapid growth of diseases due to water pollution and saving humanity from the outrageous consequences of diseases.