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Transforming water from poisonous to purified — at no cost

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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])

 

Health

Maternal blood sugar likely to affect baby’s heart

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New York, Dec 16: Women with high blood sugar early in pregnancy may raise their baby’s risk of developing a congenital heart defect, according to a study.

While it has been long known that diabetes in pregnancy raises the odds for congenital heart defects in babies.

The new findings reveal that risk extends even to women without diabetes in their earliest part of pregnancy, when the foetal heart is forming.

“Most women who have a child with congenital heart disease are not diabetic,” said James Priest, assistant professor at the Stanford University in California.

The results showed that the risk of giving birth to a child with a congenital heart defect was elevated by 8 per cent for every increase of 10 milligrams per deciliter in blood glucose levels in the early stages of pregnancy.

“We found that in women who don’t already have diabetes or develop diabetes during pregnancy, we can still measure risk for having a child with congenital heart disease by looking at their glucose values during the first trimester of pregnancy,” Priest added.

For the study, published in The Journal of Paediatrics, the team examined medical records from 19,107 pairs of mothers and their babies born between 2009 and 2015, which included details of the mothers’ prenatal care, including blood test results and any cardiac diagnoses made for the babies during pregnancy or after birth.

The study may be helpful to measure blood glucose early in pregnancy in all pregnant women to help determine which individuals are at greater risk for having a baby with a heart defect.

“Knowing about defects prenatally improves outcomes because mothers can receive specialised care that increases their babies’ chances of being healthier after birth,” Priest added.

IANS

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Health

Radiation from smartphones may up miscarriage risk: Study

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Pregnant woman, smartphone

New York, Dec 14: Pregnant women’s exposure to non-ionising radiation from smartphones, Bluetooth devices and laptops may more than double the risk of miscarriage, a study has showed.

Non-ionising radiation — radiation that produces enough energy to move around atoms in a molecule, but not enough to remove electrons completely — from magnetic fields is produced when electric devices are in use and electricity is flowing.

It can be generated by a number of environmental sources, including electric appliances, power lines and transformers, wireless devices and wireless networks.

While the health hazards from ionising radiation are well-established and include radiation sickness, cancer and genetic damage, the evidence of health risks to humans from non-ionising radiation remains limited, said De-Kun Li, a reproductive and perinatal epidemiologist at the Kaiser Permanente — a US-based health care firm.

For the study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, the team asked for 913 pregnant women over age 18 to wear a small (a bit larger than a deck of cards) magnetic-field monitoring device for 24 hours.

After controlling for multiple other factors, women who were exposed to higher magnetic fields levels had 2.72 times the risk of miscarriage than those with lower magnetic fields exposure.

The increased risk of miscarriage associated with high magnetic fields was consistently observed regardless of the sources of high magnetic fields. The association was much stronger if magnetic fields was measured on a typical day of participants’ pregnancies.

The finding also demonstrated that accurate measurement of magnetic field exposure is vital for examining magnetic field health effects.

“This study provides evidence from a human population that magnetic field non-ionising radiation could have adverse biological impacts on human health,” Li noted.

“We hope that the finding from this study will stimulate much-needed additional studies into the potential environmental hazards to human health, including the health of pregnant women,” he said.

IANS
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Health

Use of Smartphone before sleep may make your kid obese: Study

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New York, Dec 10: Beware if your children have a habit of playing games on smartphones before sleeping, he or she may face an increased risk of becoming obese, warns a study.

It was discovered kids who used digital devices such as watching TV or playing games on smartphones before going to bed got an average of 30 minutes less sleep in comparison to those who did not.

This lack of proper sleep not only caused fatigue and attention problems in school, but also disrupted their eating habits. This leads to higher body mass indexes (BMI), news agency IANS reported.

“We saw technology before bed being associated with less sleep and higher BMIs,”stated Caitlyn Fuller, researcher at the Pennsylvania State University in the US.

“We also saw this technology use being associated with more fatigue in the morning, which circling back, is another risk factor for higher BMIs. So we’re seeing a loop pattern forming,” Fuller further asserted.

The study, published in the journal Global Pediatric Health, examined the sleep and technology habits of 234 children, between the age of eight to 17 years.

As per the suggestions from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), parents should set some limitations regarding the use of technology, like requiring their kids to put away their devices during meal times and keeping phones out of bedrooms at night.

WeForNews 

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