The century-long drinking water problem associated with high flouride contamination still persisted in an alarmingly high number of 14,132 habitations in 19 Indian states, according to the union health and family welfare ministry.
High fluoride contamination levels affect the teeth and bones leading to symptoms of skeletal fluorosis with abdominal pain, excessive saliva, nausea, vomiting, seizures and muscle spasms, MF Monitor reported.
The condition only becomes apparent after 10-15 years, when the bones show deformity, and when the thickness of the bone, causes stiffness of the spine. It is seen more in growing children below 15 years, according to experts.
Calling for immediate focus on the drinking water and sanitation to complement the prime minister's `Swachch Bharat' campaign, the health ministry said ensuring the supply of safe drinking water in these habitations would solve the problem.
While desert-ridden Rajasthan is naturally the worst affected with the highest number of 7,670 habitations with 48,84,613 people, Telangana comes second with 1,174 habitations of 19,22,783 affected people.
Karnataka too has 1,122 habitations followed by Madhya Pradesh with 1,055. Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chattisgarh, Maharashtra, Odisha, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh too fell in the category of high flouride contamination.
According to the standard set by the World Health Organisation, the fluoride content in drinking water should not exceed 1.5 mg per litre, while 0.8 to 1.2 mg per litre would maximise benefits and minimise harmful effects. The environment and chemical form of the drinking water too affected the local levels of flouride consumption for the body.
The government had taken several steps in the past to address the issue, launching the National Programme for Prevention and Control of Fluorosis in 2008-09 to tackle the problem. This programme was later merged with the National Rural Health Mission in 2013-14.