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“Carcinogens in drinking water in the Ganga basin” by EcoFriends


October, 2002

Carcinogens in drinking water threaten the health of rural masses in downstream Kanpur

According to a press release issued by Eco Friends (EF), a Kanpur-based NGO, groundwater users in the downstream areas of Kanpur, are under serious threat due to poor quality water. The NGO commissioned the Facility for Ecological and Analytical Testing (FEAT), Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur to conduct these tests of underground water in the villages of Wajidpur and Sheikhpur of Jajmau region. Underground water is the only source of drinking water in these villages.

According to EF, while Cadmium levels in the groundwater were 520 times permissible WHO levels, it was 790 times for chromium VI. Both are carcinogens. The samples were collected on September 9, 2002 under the guidance of IIT technician and the team of Eco Friends. The test results were received on September 20, 2002. The test results were interpreted and evaluated by Mark Chernaik, Staff Scientist with ELAW, Eugene, USA based environmental law organization. Eco Friends has been receiving scientific and legal support on global environmental norms from ELAW since 1998.

Summary of the partial test results are, outlined in the table below.

“The population using underground water for drinking purposes in Wajidpur and Sheikhpur are extremely vulnerable to a wide variety of adverse health impacts,” notes the press release. The tests found significant levels of arsenic, nickel and chromium VI which are well known human carcinogen. Eco-Friends adds, that cadmium is a potent kidney toxicant and mercury is a potent neurological toxicant and that other metals too are potent sources of renal, neurological, skin diseases along with blue baby syndrome, which affects infants. According to Mark Chernaik, “the ground water beneath Wajidpur and Sheikhpur is unfit for human consumption because it contains highly elevated levels of various toxic heavy metals.”

Eco Friends declared the full test results on the occasion of Jan Sunwai held on October 6, Sheikhpur village, Jajmau. They also discussed the full implications of the report together with other findings and presentations of the villages in the Jajmau region and prepare a concrete agenda of action to address the issues.

Table: Test results and Analysis of Ground Water meant for Drinking at Wajidpur, Sheikhpur villages at Jajmau:

Sl. No Parameters (Heavy Metals Pesticides) Wajidpur(mg/L)*** Sheikhpur(mg/L) WHO* Standards(mg/L) No. of times greater than WHO Standards for Wajidpur No. of times greater / less than WHO Standards for Sheikhpur Selective Potential health impact from ingestion of water
1. Arsenic Absent 0.64 0.01 NA** 64 Times Skin damage or problems with circulatory systems and may have increased risk of cancer
2. Cadmium 1.56 Absent 0.003 520 Times NA Kidney damage
3. Mercury 0.11 0.12 0.001 110 Times 120 Times Neurological toxicant
4. Nickel 1.45 0.01 0.02 72.5 Times Below WHO Limits Increased risk of cancer
5. Chrome VI 39.52 37.57 .05 790 Times 751 Times Increased risk of cancer
 6. Alpha, Beta, Gamma BHC 0.013 Micro grams /Litre (Beta BHC only) 1.69 Micro grams /Litre(Alpha, Beta, Gamma BHC) 2 Micro grams /Litre Below WHO Limits Below WHO Limits Liver or Kidney problems
Endosulphan Absent 0.22 Micro grams /Litre Banned NA Not Available Liver or Kidney problems
Dieldrin Absent 0.78 Micro grams /Litre .03 Micro grams /Litre NA 26 Times Liver or Kidney problems
7. Sulphate 1327 1573.6 400**** 3.3 Times 3.9 Times Liver or Kidney problems
 8. Nitrate 1200 6400 50 (Acute) 24 Times 128 Times Increased infant mortality (blue baby syndrome)
 9. Chloride 1285.4 595.56 1000**** 1.28 Times Below WHO Limits Liver or Kidney problems

*WHO: World Health Organisation
**NA: Not Applicable
*** mg/L: Milligram per Litre
**** Indian Standards

Genre: Environmental Issues Articles, Kanpur Articles, Wastewater Issues Articles
Subjects: Environmental Issues, Kanpur, Wastewater Issues