Health Impacts of Water Pollution
It is well known that clean water is absolutely essential for healthy living. Although adequate supply of fresh and clean drinking water is a basic need, millions of people world-wide are deprived of this. Freshwater sources all over the world are threatened not only by over exploitation and poor management but also by ecological degradation. The main reasons for fresh water pollution can be attributed to discharge of untreated waste, dumping of industrial effluents, and run-off from agricultural fields due to the unscientific usage of pesticides and manures. Industrial growth, urbanisation and the increasing use of synthetic organic substances have serious and adverse impacts on freshwater bodies. Polluted water like chemicals in drinking water cause problems of health. Prevention of water-borne diseases therefore require taking measures both at the public and the household level.
Untreated or inadequately treated municipal sewage is a major source of water pollution particularly in developing countries. Sewage carry microbial pathogens which are the basic source of many diseases. Domestic waste water and industrial effluents contain phosphorus and nitrogen which increase the level of nutrients in water bodies. They cause eutrophication in the lakes and rivers resulting in ecological imbalance by destroying the aquatic bodies. The nitrates mainly come from the fertilizers used in agriculture. Excessive use of fertilizers cause nitrate contamination of ground water. Also, a large number of chemicals (lead, fluoride, chlorine, arsenic, etc.) either exist naturally in the land or are added due to human activity. They dissolve in the water thereby contaminating it. Diseases that are caused by the presence of such chemicals include: diarrhoea, skin irritation, reproduction disorders, nervous system damage, vascular diseases, etc. Many diseases like cholera, hepatitis, amoebic dysentery, poliomyelitis, etc., are caused by water contamination. They are infectious spreading primarily through the use of contaminated water. Though these diseases are spread through agents like flies, water is also one of the chief mediums for the causing of these diseases They are therefore commonly termed as water-borne diseases. Due to their potentia to spread widely, these diseases assume epidemic proportions and are basically attributed to improper management of water resources. Contamination of drinking water by microbial pathogens, chemical compounds or radiological agents has the potential to affect the health of millions of people. Good agricultural and industria practices, proper management of water resources, regular checking of water pipes for leaks and cracks, boiling/filtering of water at home, etc., can contribute to maintaining a cleaner and healthier environment minimising the effects of ill health in the society.