What Diseases Can Water Pollution Cause?

Water is essential to human life. Your body needs water for hydration and to facilitate various functions of the body such as digestion, metabolism, and elimination of waste. However, one of the biggest problems of mankind today is the poor quality of water in many parts of the world.

There are many diseases caused by water pollution. These include gastrointestinal diseases, reproductive problems, neurological disorders, and even cancer. Anyone can be affected, but babies, young children, elderly individuals, and pregnant women, especially those who have weakened immune systems, are susceptible to illnesses from various water contaminants.

17 Diseases Caused By Water Pollution

1.     Cholera

Bacteria called ‘vibrio chlorae’ cause a small intestinal disease known as cholera. Symptoms of cholera include diarrhea and vomiting, as well as abdominal cramps and headache.

You acquire these bacteria when you drink water or eat food contaminated by waste products (feces) from an infected person. You can also get sick by eating contaminated vegetables that have been irrigated with contaminated water. In heavily populated places with poor sanitation and limited water resources, a single infected person can contaminate the water and affect the entire population.

2.      Amoebiasis (Traveller’s Diarrhea)

One of the most common diseases caused by water pollution is amoebiasis. Water contaminated by amoeba can cause infection to the large intestine as well as the liver. Symptoms can range from mild to severe diarrhea with blood and mucus.

Factors that increase your risk for amoebiasis include poor hygiene, use of water contaminated by sewage or non-treated water, presence of flies, and person-to-person contact.

To prevent amoebiasis, wash your hands properly using soap, use clean toilets and avoid sharing personal items.

3.       Dysentery

Dysentery causes fever, vomiting, abdominal pain, and severe diarrhea with blood and mucus. You may also have symptoms of mild illness such as mild stomach pain and diarrhea.

It is caused by bacteria entering the mouth through contaminated water or food and poor hygiene. To prevent the disease, wash your hands regularly, maintain good hygiene and drink clean water.

4.       Diarrhea

Infectious diarrhea is one of the most common diseases caused by water pollution. It causes frequent passage of loose, water stools that can cause dehydration and death to young children and infants.

The most common cause is a water-borne virus, but bacteria and parasites from water contaminated with feces are also common causes.

You can avoid diarrhea by boiling your drinking water or by using chemically treated water and by not drinking or eating from unsafe sources.

5.       Hepatitis A

This infectious disease affects the liver and is caused by the hepatitis A virus. It usually spreads by the fecal-oral route, by ingestion of contaminated water or food, or by direct contact with an infected person. Hepatitis A infection is a self-limiting disease that does not lead to chronic infection/liver disease.

Symptoms include fever, nausea, fatigue, abdominal pain, diarrhea, jaundice, weight loss, and depression.

Prevent hepatitis A by using only safe water, properly disposing sewage and practicing good hygiene.

6.       Lead Poisoning

Water contaminated with lead coming from old pipes can cause lead poisoning, one of the serious diseases caused by water pollution. Children are at risk since chronic exposure to this metal can cause a number ofhealth problems, including organ damage.

This can lead to nervous system disorders, anemia, high blood pressure, kidney disease and problems with the reproductive system.

The best way to prevent lead poisoning is to change your water pipes or to treat your water regularly. In the morning, you can also flush water through your faucet before drinking.

7.       Malaria

Malaria is a disease caused by parasites, which are spread by female mosquitos called Anopheles. Mosquitos breed in water, and when they bite a person infected with malaria, they can spread the infection to other people.

Symptoms of malaria include fever, headache and shivering. In severe cases, it can even lead to complications like pneumonia, severe anemia, coma and death.

To prevent breeding of mosquitos and malaria, pooled water must be eliminated. You can also use mosquito nets and pesticides and practice good sanitation.

8.       Polyomavirus Infection

The name polyoma refers to the viruses' ability to produce multiple (poly-) tumors (-oma). Polyomavirus are tumor viruses that affect animals and humans. They are often acquired in childhood and persist as infections in hosts without causing disease, but can lead to development of tumors in hosts with weak immune systems.

Polyomavirus infection is caused by two types of viruses BK and JC virus, which can be transmitted through different routes, including food and water (fecal-oral route), sexual contact, through air, surfaces, blood, etc. Many people (up to 80%) have antibodies to these viruses. Prevention includes good hygiene and sanitation.

9.       Polio (Infantile Paralysis)

Poliomyelitis is an acute viral infection caused by poliovirus, which spreads through the fecal-oral-route. The virus is passed through water from the feces of an infected individual.

Symptoms: Most people who get the virus have no symptoms but in affected individuals, the virus enters the blood stream and damages the nervous system, causing weakness and paralysis. Initial symptoms include fever, headache, and seizures, followed by paralysis.

Your risk of acquiring polio is increased by factors like malnutrition and immune deficiency. Proper hygiene and sanitation, use of clean water, and getting vaccinations in childhood can help prevent the disease.

10.     Arsenicosis

This condition is caused by chronic exposure to small amounts of arsenic found in drinking-water.

Symptoms include painful skin lesions (keratosis), which can progress into cancer. It can also affect your lungs, kidneys andbladder. Millions of people are at risk of arsenic poisoning from contaminated water supplies from natural sources.

11.    Fluorosis

This is a condition that leads to serious bone disease and is caused by high levels of fluoride naturally found in groundwater. It occurs in more than 25 countries around the world and estimates suggest that tens of millions of people may be affected

12.    Dracunculiasis (Guinea Worm Disease)

This is one of the diseases caused by water pollution in Africa. People are infected with the worms when they drink water contaminated with the larvae. These larvae develop into mature adult Guinea worms, which can grow up to a meter long. They leave the body after living there for about one year, leaving debilitating ulcers.

13.    Intestinal Worms

Parasitic intestinal worms (helminthes/roundworms, whipworms and/or hookworms) can be transmitted through contaminated food and soil contaminated with human feces. It is estimated that up to 10 percent of the population, mostly children, has intestinal worms that can cause anemia, malnutrition, or growth retardation. Children are particularly susceptible and typically have the largest number of worms. It can be prevented by good sanitation and hygiene and use of clean drinking water and food.

14.    Trachoma (Eye Infection)

This infection spreads through poor hygiene and sanitation caused by the lack of adequate safe water supply. It is more likely to affect women and children. Approximately 6 million people with trachoma have developed blindness. Studies show that providing people with adequate water supply can significantly reduce infection rates.

15.    Typhoid Fever

This common bacterial infection affects around 12 million people annually. It is caused by the ingestion of contaminated food and water. Symptoms include nausea, loss of appetite, andheadache.

16.    Schistosomiasis (Bilharzia)

Schistosomiasis is caused by worms that are spread by freshwater snails living in contaminated water. They penetrate your skin while swimming, wading or washing in the contaminated water, causing cause infection and damage your liver, lungs, intestines, and bladder.

It is estimated that around 200 million people have schistosomiasis, with 10 percent suffering from severe consequences. Having adequate water supply and avoidance of contact with contaminated water can significantly reduce infection rates.

17.     HIV/AIDS

Water contamination does not cause this condition technically, but can aggravate the harms. People who are infected with HIV/AIDS have a weakened immune system that makes them more susceptible to diseases caused by water pollution. It is therefore important to maintain good hygiene and sanitation to prevent them from acquiring water-related diseases, which can make the sicker. 

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