Our study on
CRIPPLING FLUOROSIS IN ASSAM

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Table-2 : Diseases that may be caused by drinking fluoride contaminated water

* Fluoride destroys the living mucosa of the gastrointestinal system.

* Skeletal fluorosis. Excessive quantities of fluoride when deposited in the skeleton increases the bone density and bone mass, causing pain, and is associated with rigidity and restricted movement of cervical and lumber spine, knee and pelvic joints as well as shoulder joints. In severe cases of fluorosis, there is complete rigidity of the joints resulting in stiff spine.

* Teeth affected by fluorosis In dental fluorosis, the teeth enamel looes its lusture and shine leading to broken structure. Dental fluorosis is an aesthetic and social problem, besides being a health problem.

* Complaints of male infertility with abnormality in sperm morphology and low testosterone levels could reveal form fluoride toxicity, besides other reasons.

* Repeated abortions/still birth could also be due to fluoride toxicity, besides other reasons, as fluoride is known to harden/calcify blood vessels and blood flow to the growing foetus is hampered.

Additional Chief Engineer Mr. A.B. Pal of PHED-Assam, Diphu-District-Head Quarter of Karbi-Anglong district first suspected cases of dental fluorosis and high fluoride in June '99 and approached to the School of Environmental Studies (SOES) for scientific assistance, as many people in his district were suffering from a crippling disease and dental problem. Karbi-Anglong is the largest district in Assam with area and population of 10,526 sq. km and 700,000 respectively. SOES immediately rushed to Assam.

During our very preliminary study along with the PHED staffs of Howraghat and Diphu Aditional Chief Engineer Office, we could survey five villages (Baghpani, Langtuc Taro, Ramsing Tisso, Napak-Killing and Kehang -Englang) of Karbi-Anglong district and 2 villages (Akashi Ganga, Haldhiaty) in Nagaon district. All these villages are severely affected and a large number of people are suffering from dental fluorosis and skeletal fluorosis.

Gita Deb, 34, (Photograph-1) is one patient who is bed-ridden for last 6 months. She said that she slowly became crippled. Her husband said that no doctor could cure her and diagnose her disease. We have got the X-ray plate of her spine which was taken in 1996, when she could still walk with a stick. The spine radiograph has been examined by Dr. S.C. Mukherjee, Calcutta Medical College, and, according to his findings, there is a thickening of the vertebral column with Osteophytosis and ligament calcification. Gita Deb was drinking fluoride contaminated water (8.70 µg/l) and suffers from back-pain, stiffening, and neurologic findings show weakness of limbs. These, according to Dr. Mukherjee, are suggestive of fluorosis. Mrs. Deb broke down and said that she had become a burden to her family, and her daughter Rakhi (14) is unable to go to school, as she is taking care of all the work she was doing. All the members of the family have dental fluorosis.

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