‘Students at schools drink unsafe water’

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Srinagar: Over the last decades, the drinking water at the hundreds of schools across Jammu and Kashmir has been found to contain unsafe levels of lead, pesticides and dozens of other toxins.

Experts say that contaminants have almost surfaced at public and private schools in the whole state.

They expressed concern that the problem has unfortunately gone largely unmonitored by the successive governments, even as the numbers of water safety violations have multiplied.

“The consumption of contaminated drinking water over the years has infected a good number of the school children in the state population by Helicobacter pylori (H.pylori) virus, which is considered as the main cause of gastric cancers,” one of the senior epidemiologist told KNS on condition of anonymity.

He said that the drinking water testing facilities of Kashmir lack equipment to detect the presence of H.pylori. “Government water-testing facilities rely on coliform bacteria, a bacterial indicator to evaluate the safety of source waters, but H.pylori has been found in waters where coliform indicators were absent,”

He said that unsafe water supply was responsible for H.pylori infection. “Majority of the infectious disease in children are because of the contaminated water. I have seen in children who have been infected with H.pylori that causes most of the gastro duodenal diseases,”

Ascribing H.pylori infection to high prevalence of gastric cancer in Kashmir, another senior doctor wished anonymity attributed the prevalence of infection to consumption of highly contaminated drinking water.

“Gastric cancer accounts for more than 60% of all cancers in Kashmir and most of the epidemiologists believe that H.pylori is possibly the only cause of stomach cancer in areas with high incidence of the infection,” the doctors said.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer sponsored by World Health Organization has categorized H.pylori as class 1 carcinogen and a definite cause of human gastric cancer.

The Rural Development Ministry in the recent past in a survey revealed that 60% of villages and over 40% of schools in Kashmir rely on unsafe drinking water.

Experts complain that responsibility for drinking water is spread among too many local, state and federal agencies, and that risks are going unreported. Finding a solution, they say, would require a new strategy for monitoring water in schools.

Doctors say that though many of the same toxins could also be found in water at homes, offices and business establishments but the contaminants are especially dangerous to children, who drink more water per pound than adults and are more vulnerable to the effects of many hazardous substances.

“There’s a different risk for kids,” said one of the doctor posted in SMHS hospital.

In recent years, students at many schools fell ill after drinking tainted water.

Experts say the testing requirements fail to detect dangerous toxins such as lead, which can wreak havoc on major organs and may retard children’s learning abilities.

Sources said that the regular water tests were not conducted in any of the schools of the state.

State public health engineering officials admitted the widespread reliance on unsafe drinking water was worrisome. “It is a fact that our schools don’t have access to safe drinking water,” one of the officials of the PHE said. (KNS)

 

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