Saturday, 28 January 2012

H to O : Pollution

The word itself denotes something fundamental to life, without which the spur of existence cannot be imagined. It was there in some form when the universe was taking shape and the earth broke out from the sun at a time where even the most alive of human imagination cannot go.Of the 37 most common diseases among the population of Latin America, 21 are related to lack of water and contaminated water. Worldwide these diseases account for 25 million deaths annually.
Now when the 21st century modern world is hurtling ahead, water is one among those basic things of life, which is getting affected and the situation is alarming. It is a well-known fact that clean water is absolutely essential for healthy living. Adequate supply of fresh and clean drinking water is a basic need for all human beings on the earth, yet it has been observed that millions of people worldwide are deprived of this.
There are a wide variety of diseases caused by water pollution, with their severity ranging from a minor inconvenience to life threatening. These diseases are the result of pollution and can be grouped into two main categories, chemicals and living organisms. Human made chemicals often get into the water system, both intentionally and unintentionally, and accumulate until they are a cause for concern. They usually go unnoticed and are undetected by our senses. Living organisms, in the form of pathogens and algae, can also cause a variety of diseases. It is difficult to detect these organisms as well.
The most common bacteria followed by disease / infection and symptoms are:
1. Aeromonas sp.Enterit is Severe watery diarrhea with blood and mucus
2. Campylobacter jejuni Campylobacteriosis Flu, diarrhea, headache and stomach, fever, cramps adnausea
3. Escherichia coli Urinary tract infections, neonatal meningitis, intestinal disease Watery diarrhea, headaches, fever, uremia, liver damage
4. Plesiomonas shigelloides Plesiomonas-infection Nausea, stomach cramps and watery diarrhea, sometimes fever, headache and vomiting
5. Salmonella typhi Typhoid fever ,Fever
6. Salmonella sp. Salmonellosis Dizziness, intestinal cramps, vomiting, diarrhea and sometimes a mild fever
One of the most common groups of waterborne diseases, are those caused by pathogens. These usually originate from contamination by animal feces and include typhoid, glardiasis, and hookworm. There are also many diseases caused by polluted beach water, the most serious of which is Hepatitis A. This is an extremely serious illness that affects approximately 3,600 people each year. In addition, diarrheal diseases are a common occurrence resulting from water pollution. In particular, dysentery is often contracted from contaminated water. These diseases are some of the most common that occur worldwide and pose a dangerous threat to our wellbeing.
Causes: Fresh water resources all over the world are threatened not only by over exploitation and poor management but also by ecological degradation. The main source of freshwater pollution can be attributed to discharge of untreated waste, dumping of industrial effluent, and run-off from agricultural fields. Industrial growth, urbanization and the increasing use of synthetic organic substances have serious and adverse impacts on freshwater bodies. It is a generally accepted fact that the developed countries suffer from problems of chemical discharge into the water sources mainly groundwater, while developing countries face problems of agricultural run-off in water sources. Polluted water like chemicals in drinking water causes problem to health and leads to water-borne diseases, which can be prevented by taking measures, can be taken even at the household level. The quality and quantity of water available for human consumption is a direct measure of the health of the population and that of the country. In over-populated countries, as in the case of India, the quality of water is abysmally poor due to heavy contamination of soil and water with fecal material, other biological wastes and chemical pollutants.
Lead is a metal with no known biological benefit to humans. Too much lead can damage various systems of the body including the nervous and reproductive systems and the kidneys, and it can cause high blood pressure and anemia. Lead accumulates in the bones and lead poisoning may be diagnosed from a blue line around the gums. Lead is especially harmful to the developing brains of fetuses and young children and to pregnant women. Lead interferes with the metabolism of calcium and Vitamin D. High blood lead levels in children can cause consequences which may be irreversible including learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and mental retardation. At very high levels, lead can cause convulsions, coma and death.
The cause
People are exposed to lead through the air they breathe, through water and through food/ingestion. Toxic effects are usually due to long term exposure. The population groups at greatest risk of exposure are young children and workers. A recent report suggests that even a blood level of 10 micrograms per decilitre can have harmful effects on children's learning and behavior (CDC, 2000). People can be exposed to lead contamination from the motor vehicle exhaust of leaded gasoline, as well as from industrial sources such as smelters and lead manufacturing and recycling industries, from cottage industry uses and waste sites (e.g. contaminated landfills).
Exposure to lead through water is generally low in comparison with exposure through air or food. Lead from natural sources is present in tap water to some extent, but analysis of both surface and ground water suggests that lead concentration is fairly low. The main source of lead in drinking water is (old) lead piping and lead-combining solders. Removing old piping is costly and lead continues to dissolve even from old pipes. The amount of lead that may dissolve in water depends on acidity (pH), temperature, water hardness and standing time of the water. Secondary pollution from industry can contaminate water through the effluents produced.
Other sources include use of lead-containing ceramics for cooking, eating or drinking. In some countries, people are exposed to lead after eating food products from cans that contain lead solder in the seams of the cans. Very small children are especially at risk to exposure, for example through the ingestion of paint chips from lead-based paint.
Scope of the Problem :The major sources of lead vary according to the region and include: industrial use of lead, lead recycling, leaded gasoline and lead piping used in water distribution systems. Lead in the environment is distributed mostly by air but there is some discharge into soil and water. Water is not normally considered the major source of pollution exposure to lead. In individual households with lead piping and soft waters it may be important. As other sources of exposure to lead are increasingly controlled, water attracts increasing attention.
 Preventive measures :
Water-borne epidemics and health hazards in the aquatic environment are mainly due to improper management of water resources. Proper management of water resources has become the need of the hour as this would ultimately lead to a cleaner and healthier environment.  In order to prevent the spread of water-borne infectious diseases, people should take adequate precautions. The city water supply should be properly checked and necessary steps taken to disinfect it. Water pipes should be  regularly checked for leaks and cracks. At home, the water should be boiled, filtered, or other methods and necessary steps taken to ensure that it is free from infection. 

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