Hyderabad: Is consumption of water poisoned by hexavalent chromium a reason behind skin problems, diarrhoea and acute renal failure among Hyderabadis? This is a question being raised in a study by students of St Pious degree and PG college with help of experts from National Geophysical Research Institute. It found high concentrations of hexavalent chromium, a dangerous form of the heavy metal chromium, in groundwater and lakes of Hyderabad.
For the study, samples of water from five lakes — Nacharam, Babanagar, Safilguda, Kapra and Hussainsagar — and groundwater samples from areas lying within 0.5–1km of these lakes were collected.
In all water samples, hexavalent chromium concentrations in water were found to be exceeding the standards set by World Health Organisation and the Bureau of Indian Standards.
Heavy exposure to hexavalent chromium results in extensive skin rashes, weakened immune system, genetic material alteration, kidney and liver damage and cancer.
Apart from this, the researchers also found concentrations of other cadmium and lead exceeding WHO and BIS standards, which affect synthesis of haemoglobin, kidney, teeth, bone, gastrointestinal tract and reproductive system.
While the BIS standard for hexavalent chromium, cadmium and lead in drinking water is at 50 micrograms/liter(ug/l), 3ug/l and 10ug/l respectively, the maximum concentrations in water samples from Hyderabad goes up to a whopping 260ug/l, 22ug/l and 160ug/l.
Dr Mala Das Sharma of the St Pious College who headed the study group said, “Water contaminated with heavy metals is dangerous for anyone who consumes it. There’s no way of removing heavy metals from the water using equipment at home. There is a necessity to understand health impacts of consumption of this contaminated water on the people in Hyderabad. Industrial pollution, dumping of e-waste and direct disposal of potassium dichromate by colleges in drain are reasons for the contamination.”
When contacted, two experts from Hyderabad, Dr Lakshmi Sharada, dermatologist and Dr Dilip M. Babu, nephrologist, said doctors go for tests to determine what went wrong in the body to address the issue and usually do not tell patients to get tests done for detecting presence of heavy metals.
Dr Babu said regardless of any parameters like age, gender or health status, heavy metal ingestion in excess amounts or over prolonged periods can cause health problems. Both doctors said it is usually patients who have a history of getting exposed to heavy metals as an occupational hazard, and are told to undergo tests to know the presence of heavy metals but such cases are rare.
The doctors said if there is a study by the government establishing prevalence of health issues in a particular urban area due to the consumption of heavy metal contaminated water, then doctors would go for tests to know if a health issue arose because of heavy metal poisoning.