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Fluorosis-hit children in Tapatjuri gradually improving
Ajit Patowary

From left: Amzad, Rajib, Jakir and their sister Masuma and paternal grandmother Nurjahan. Photo courtesy: Dharani Saikia
 GUWAHATI, Dec 30 - Children of a ‘cursed’ family are now getting cured of the disease they had inherited from their environment. Like them, many other children of the neighbourhood, who also suffered from the same condition, are also getting better. The children – Amzad, Rajib and Jakir – sons of Dilowar Hussain and Halima Begum of Tapatjuri in Hojai district are suffering from fluorosis due to fluoride contamination of their drinking water.

Dilowar works at a coal mine in Nagaland, while Halima works as a maid. Like their children, around 500 others of Tapatjuri are suffering from fluorosis. Almost all the 4,000 inhabitants of the village are fluorosis-inflicted.

People of Tapatjuri were of the opinion that the children were getting their legs bent like bows, their teeth darkened or broken, and their physique wearing a aged look due to the presence of some evil spirits in their area.

It came to light following a relentless investigation by AB Paul, a retired chief engineer of the State public health engineering department (PHED), in 2000 that these children were victims of dental, skeletal and non-skeletal fluorosis due to the presence of excessive fluoride in the water they consume.

The surface water-based piped water of the PHED was provided to the residents of Tapatjuri localities, comprising three villages with a population of about 4,000, in 2013. Prior to that they mostly used to drink water drawn from dug wells, or water supplied by the PHED from groundwater sources.

Paul initially took the help of Kampur-based voluntary organisation ‘Environment Conservation Centre’ to tackle the situation. But, considering the gravity of the situation, he invited the Fluoride Knowledge and Action Network of Anand and Gujarat-based research organisation India Natural Resource Economics and Management (INREM) Foundation, which are carrying out a countrywide campaign against fluorosis, to help cure these children.

Now, following around three years of medicinal treatment and nutritious food provided by INREM, and with logistic support from the State health department, Amzad and his brothers are almost cured of fluorosis.

Halima Begum told Dharani Saikia of INREM that Amzad, now 15 years old, was unable to walk till he was one-and-half-a-year-old. He then started crawling and then started walking with the help of a support stick. He used to complain of pain all over his body and had to remain absent from his classes frequently for his inability to walk the 3-km distance from his home to school. He could not even write the annual examination once. He now weighs 30 kg and has a height of 138 cm.

The fluoride found in his urine now has got reduced to 1.5 mg per litre from the 40.2 mg per litre in 2012. Normally he should have weighed 50 kg and attained a height of 160 cm.

Amzad’s brother Rajib is now 13 years old. His legs were bent like bows and he could barely walk. He too used to complain of pain all over his body, but with medication his pain has reduced, and the fluoride content in his urine has also come down considerably.

The fluoride content in 11-year-old Jakir’s urine is now 1.6 mg per litre, against the 45 mg per litre in 2012. However, his physical growth is stalled; he weighs 23 kg and his height is 121 cm against 32 kg and 140 cm respectively.

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