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Transforming water from poisonous to purified — at no cost

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Water
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Madhusudankati (West Bengal), April 3 : Deep wounds and white patches on their skin are common among people in this tiny West Bengal speck bordering Bangladesh. The disease turned deadly for many, and the culprit was drinking water that contained arsenic — a toxic substance that can lead to chronic poisoning once it enters a human body.

Many of the 2,000 villagers living here were forced to migrate to nearby places before they tried, in vain, every attempt to rid the water of poison. The cost was high. They had to pay for every drop of purified water they would fetch from distant towns or cities.

But life started changing for them two years ago when Sulabh International Social Service Organisation (SISSO), in collaboration with a French company, 1001 Fontaines, installed a Rs 20-lakh pond-based water treatment plant in this village of North 24 Parganas district.

Gopal Krishna Das, 56, was one of the hundreds of victims with deep white wounds and shinny patches on their skin.

“We have seen the worst. Not just diseases, arsenic has even claimed the lives of our people, especially when we didn’t know what this exactly meant. The water from the treatment plant… has given us a new hope,” Das told IANS.

Now, every villager in Madhusudankati gets purified water for free. But those from other nearby villages — Teghoria, Bishnupur and Faridkati — pay 50 paise for a litre and Rs 11 for a jar of 20 litres. The money collected is used to pay salaries to local employees for maintenance of the plant.

Brindeshwar Pathak, 74, the founder of SISSO, said the entire problem of arsenic-contaminated water was widespread in the state and could be solved if the West Bengal government took interest and replicated the model.

“The uniqueness of this project is that the water from the plant is affordable. The ‘Sulabh Jal’ project converts contaminated pond water into safe drinking water and can be sold at only 50 paise per litre in villages and nearby cities along the Bangladesh border,” Pathak told IANS, adding that they could afford 20 more similar projects in other parts of the country.

According to SISSO, the water from ponds or rivers is pumped into an overhead reservoir. It is then collected in a tank where a chemical, alum, is mixed at a desired rate.

The settled water is then passed through a slow sand filter, before being collected in a clear water reservoir. The water is then passed through activated carbon filters and membranes of varying sizes.

“This removes the finest contaminants from the water which will be treated with UV rays to make it totally bacteria free. The resultant treated water, which is free from all pathogenic micro-organisms, is then poured into 20-litre bottles and sealed. The consumers either collect the bottles from the kiosk or it is delivered to their houses,” said Pathak.

SISSO has initiated similar projects in four other parts of West Bengal — Suvasgram, Bangaon, Murshidaba and West Medinipur. All the plants are maintained by village-level committees, who have also employed locals for the maintenance and home delivery of water bottles up to a radius of 15 km on e-rickshaws.

Dilip Sarkar, a veterinarian who developed skin cancer due to arsenic water, said villagers earlier used to buy water bottles from the nearby town. The cost was high and travelling daily was tiresome.

“We tried several measures earlier to get purified water from towns which had helped in the reduction of skin diseases,” Sarkar told IANS, recollecting how many in the villages who were unable to travel daily and buy water caught the diseases.

“With the discontinuity in the intake of filtered water, the skin diseases relapsed,” he said, showing his wounds that “are getting better now”.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), arsenic is a natural component of the earth’s crust and is widely distributed throughout the environment — in air, water and land. It is highly toxic in its inorganic form.

Long-term exposure to inorganic arsenic, mainly by drinking contaminated water, eating food grown or even prepared with this water, can cause skin lesions and cancer.

WHO says inorganic arsenic is naturally present at high levels in the groundwater of a number of countries, including Argentina, Bangladesh, Chile, China, India, Mexico, and the United States.

By Rupesh Dutta

(Rupesh Dutta was in Madhusudankati at the invitation of Sulabh International and can be contacted at [email protected])

 

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Health

Can drinking too much water harm you?

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Water

Toronto, May 23: Do you drink too much water? Beware, overhydration — excess fluid accumulation — can lead to dangerously low sodium levels or in the blood or result in brain swelling, researchers say.

Hyponatremia, a life-threatening condition of brain swelling, is more common in elderly patients and can cause cognitive problems and seizures.

“(Hyponatremia) occurs in common pathological conditions, including brain injury, sepsis, cardiac failure and in the use of drugs, such as MDMA (ecstasy),” said Charles Bourque from the McGill University in Canada.

While it was yet uncertain how hyponatremia develops, the study found that a defect in the hydration sensing mechanism of the brain could be the culprit.

The researchers said that brain’s hydration sensing neurons could not detect overhydration in the same way that they detect dehydration.

Overhydration activates Trpv4 — a calcium channel that can be found in glial cells, that act to surround hydration sensing neurons.

It is cellular gatekeeper implicated in maintaining the balance of water in the body.

“Our study shows that it is in fact glial cells that first detect the overhydrated state and then transfer this information to turn off the electrical activity of the [hydration sensing] neurons,” Bourque explained.

“Our specific data will be important for people studying hydromineral and fluid electrolyte homeostasis, and clinicians who treat patients faced with hyponatremia,” he noted.

The results, published in the journal Cell Reports, showed that overhydration is first identified by the Trpv4 channel which triggers the release of a type of amino acid known, taurine, which acts as a trip wire to inhibit hydration sensing neurons.

“Preclinical models of hyponatremia will be used to examine if the mechanism we report is affected in this condition with the long-term objective of designing new treatments or diagnostic tools,” Bourque added.

IANS

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An egg a day may keep heart diseases away

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Eggs

Beijing, May 22: If you thought eating eggs is bad for your heart due to their high cholesterol content, think again. A large study has now shown that people who consume an egg every day could significantly reduce their risk of cardiovascular diseases.

“The present study finds that there is an association between moderate level of egg consumption (up to one egg/day) and a lower cardiac event rate,” the study authors said.

The researchers pointed out that eggs are a prominent source of dietary cholesterol, but they also contain high-quality protein, many vitamins and bioactive components such as phospholipids and carotenoids.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death and disability worldwide mostly due to ischaemic heart disease and stroke (including both haemorrhagic and ischaemic stroke).

For the study, published in the journal Heart, Chenxi Qin from Peking University Health Science Centre in Beijing, and colleagues set out to examine the associations between egg consumption and cardiovascular disease, ischaemic heart disease, major coronary events, haemorrhagic stroke and ischaemic stroke.

They used data from the China Kadoorie Biobank (CKB) study, an ongoing prospective study of around half a million (512,891) adults aged 30 to 79 from 10 different geographical areas in China.

The researchers focused on 416,213 participants who were free of prior cancer, cardiovascular disease (CVD) and diabetes.

Analysis of the results showed that compared with people not consuming eggs, daily egg consumption was associated with a lower risk of CVD overall.

In particular, daily egg consumers (up to one egg per day) had a 26 per cent lower risk of haemorrhagic stroke, a 28 per cent lower risk of haemorrhagic stroke death and an 18 per cent lower risk of CVD death.

In addition, there was a 12 per cent reduction in risk of ischaemic heart disease observed for people consuming eggs daily, when compared with the ‘never/rarely’ consumption category — about 2.03 eggs per week.

This was an observational study, so no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect, but the authors said their study had a large sample size and took into account established and potential risk factors for CVD.

IANS

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Health

Delhi govt planning free dialysis at pvt hospitals: Jain

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Dialysis

New Delhi, May 21 : The Delhi government is planning to make the dialysis procedure free at private hospitals and dialysis centres on a public-private-partnership basis, subject to conditions, Health Minister Satyendar Jain said today.

Jain said only those private hospitals and standalone centres which have more than 10 dialysis machines and are empanelled under the Delhi Government Employees Health Scheme or the Central Government Health Scheme would be eligible to become a partner in the project.

Delhi government through the Delhi Arogya Kosh will pay them Rs 1,274 per dialysis.

Delhi residents who have been living in the city for the past three years and having an annual income of less than Rs 3 lakh shall be eligible to avail the facility, Jain said.

The government is also installing dialysis machines at its own hospitals.

“We have installed 15 machines out of the 75 machines that we intend to install at various hospitals,” he said.

Jain said the idea behind providing the facility at private hospitals or dialysis centres is to cut the travel time for patients, who otherwise may have to go long distance to avail that facility at a government hospital.

“This would be like a reverse referral facility where patients would be referred to an empanelled hospital or centre nearby their home,” he said.

Jain said the government was in an “expansion mode” as far as health services were concerned.

“Five of our hospitals have already earned NABH entry-level accreditation – Pt Madan Mohan Malviya Hospital, Shri Dada Dev Matri Avum Shishu Chikitsalaya, Acharya Shree Bhikshu Hospital, Guru Gobind Singh Hospital and Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar Hospital,” he said.

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