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Impact of Water Pollution on Healthcare

How to Lessen the Damaging Effects of Water Pollution?

Around 71% of Earth’s surface is covered by water. However, most of it is unfit for drinking purposes or is inaccessible. Safe and potable drinking water is a fundamental human right of all citizens. According to the WHO, around 80% of infectious diseases are water-borne and contribute to 3.1% of global deaths.

Water pollution is defined as contamination of water bodies, which includes lakes, rivers, oceans, and groundwater. Water pollution is one of the leading causes of (2) global pollution.

The factors contributing to water pollution:

  • Rapid industrialization and discharge of effluents from the factories
  • Unplanned urbanization with the discharge of effluents into water bodies
  • Excessive leaching of pesticides and agrochemicals in groundwater; due to the over-use of such chemicals
  • Radioactive seepage from power plants.

These wastes have adverse outcomes on human health. Different inorganic pollutants involving chemicals, heavy metals, and fertilizers; and organic pollutants involving bacteria, viruses, and parasites cause various diseases. It depends on their concentration and their mode of entry and multiplication in the human body. Water-borne diseases like typhoid, cholera, and bacterial dysentery are spread through contaminated water and may lead to epidemics. Regular examination of the physical and chemical properties of water is essential to ensure a safe supply of water and the prevention of water-borne diseases.

In addition to human lives, water pollution is harmful to aquatic life as well. It affects both aquatic vegetation and animals. Pesticides and insecticides when entering the water body, they are taken up by fishes, then through birds which feed on such fishes and other top-level consumers. As a result, the concentration of the chemical goes on increasing in the successive consumers involving humans. We know this as bio-magnification and is detrimental to human and environmental health.

The concentration of insecticides like DDT (though it is currently banned, it is still used illegally in some countries) is increasing along the food chain. These are harmful to humans and can lead to various problems such as decreased sperm count, infertility, nerve damage, immune suppression, among others.

Untreated domestic sewage causes nearly 80 % of water pollution. It includes bacterial contaminants, microplastics, solid contaminants, among others, and thus, if released before treatment, can lead to decreased flora and fauna of the aquatic environment.

The heavy metal pollution is caused by the mineral industries and is more harmful. The metals get deposited in the bodies and are not excreted out of it.

Fertilizer usage in excess also causes specific problems. About 2/3rd fertilizers are taken while 1/3rd are leached into the soil. These are rich in phosphorous and nitrates. They promote the growth of cyanobacteria or blue-green algae in water bodies. Gradually, they take up the entire area of the water body leading to eutrophication. Thus, the source of water is converted into vegetation. Residues of chemicals mix with river water due to flooding, heavy rainfall, excess irrigation, and enter the food pyramid. These chemicals contaminate the fruits and vegetables and thus enter the human body.

 

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Ways to Reduce Water Pollution

  • Using less plastic and opting for biodegradable alternatives
  • Reducing consumption, reusing utilities and recycling goods
  • Do not dispose of oils, medicines, and chemicals in sinks.
  • Not disposing of non-biodegradable things (wrappers, straws in water bodies)
  • Avoid using dishwashers or washing machines for a few utensils or a few pairs of clothes.
  • Limiting the use of bleaching powders and detergents
  • Eco-friendly gardening practices and water conservation through tanks
  • Use of bio-fertilizers and environmental methods instead of chemical insecticides.
  • Preventing oil spills
  • Using organically grown vegetables and fruits
  • Joining Water Conservation movements
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