Freshwater Pollution: Effects on Aquatic Life and Human Health

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Water pollution may be understood as the phenomenon of addition and ingress of substances and materials into water/water bodies which are not the natural part of the water cycle on earth. Such an addition leads to a compromise in the quality of water (Alrumman et al. 2016) and poses overbearing threat to the ecosystem and balance of the natural forces which are otherwise important in keeping the biosphere working in the well-modulated form. Hitches in the environment and human wellbeing are, for this reason, inevitable (Briggs 2003).

Water is presumably the most important natural resource second only to air. Food may attain the third position but for production of food, water is indispensable. Water is required for majority of the biochemical transformations that take place inside the bodies of living being from bacteria to the most advanced organisms.

In addition to that, most of the life processes happen in a four dimensional world in which the three dimensions of space are being occupied by water and the fourth dimension of time also interacts with water in certain important ways. Indications can, therefore, be seen towards the very process of life happening in water as a medium even in the terrestrial forms. Water is important all through the origin, birth and maintenance of life as a continuous and self-describing algorithm.

Causes of Water Pollution

As already mentioned, there are many sources of water pollution but some of the representative basis are discusses as follows:

Domestic Sewage:It is also called domestic wastewater and sometimes municipal wastewater. It is produced by domestic and community activities of people in the form of waste water. Domestic sewage is generally described by the amount of its production, dynamics of its flow, physical characteristics, chemical constituents, toxin concentration and pathogenic load. Examples of domestic sewage include greywater (from sinks, tubs, showers etc.), blackwater (The water that comes from flushed toilets, and cleansing activities of human waste) and other chemical substances like soaps and detergents.

Industrialization:Industries generally take cold water and return back hot adding a significant momentum to global warming and climate changes. These effects in turn have harmful effects on the ecosystems which affects human health. Industrial pollution brings forth its effects through industrial wastes such as heavy metals, harmful substances/ chemicals, industrial by-products, organic pollutants etc.

Pesticides and Fertilizers:Pesticides, which are mostly sulfur based substances, are rampant in modern agricultural practices. They are potentially toxic, hence their use in killing pests. Their toxicity is not specific, therefore, they pose a huge threat in terms of chronic diseases, congenital deformities, and many other development issues in humans.

Plastics/Polythene Bags: Plastic bags and other polythene items accumulate in our environment and seldom decompose and hence the amount is ever increasing. It clogs the flow of water leading to pollution and pathogen growth. Plastic bags are one of the greatest menaces of the modern society. It is a huge threat to our water bodies and is immensely detrimental to human health and wellbeing.

Human Health and Water Pollution: The Crosstalk

pollution is the etiology of a majority of human ailments which range from relatively benign to the most dreadful diseases and even epidemics seen throughout the human history. Any organism that is capable of causing a disease is called a pathogen. Pathogens are of many types and are responsible for causing and spreading diseases in humans and other organisms.

Pathogens can be classified on many basis like the species, mode of transmission etc. Certain types are pathogens are found throughout the world and global programs have been initiated to combat the diseases caused by them yet other types are restricted to certain specific areas, geographies and climatic conditions. It is important to note that a significant percentage of water borne diseases are spread by human to human mode of transmission (Halder and Islam 2015) which makes it all the more imperative to tackle the diseases right from the cause -which is water pollution.

Bacterial Diseases: Contaminated and untreated water for drinking is the source of numerous diseases. One of these diseases is diarrhea (which is more of a symptom than a disease itself). The organism mainly responsible for the spread of diarrhea through contaminated and untreated water is Campylobacter jejuni which is responsible for almost 15% of the diarrhea cases in the world. C. Jejuni is a bacterial pathogen which causes many disease including enteritis characterized by abdominal pain, diarrhea (from loose to bloody stools) and fever. This pathogen belongs to the genus Campylobacter. And responds to antibiotics (azithromycin, ciprofloxacin, erythromycin, and norfloxacin). Campylobacter jejuni can also cause arthritis.

Viral Diseases: Viral disease that are spread by contaminated water primarily target the liver. The basic reason for that is the viruses mostly present in the contaminated and polluted waters are hepatotrophic in nature and, therefore, target the liver causing hepatic inflammation and hepatotoxicity. Hepatic inflammation and toxicity is covered under the umbrella term hepatitis. Hepatitis is a variable disease which sometimes presents with no symptoms while other times may present with a gamut of signs and clinical features.

Parasitic Diseases:Parasitic disease are a group of ailments caused by certain organisms called parasites. Parasites are a heterogeneous group of organisms which infest/infect other living organisms and masquerade the host from nutrients and cause diseases also. Diseases caused by parasites are referred to as parasitosis. Cryptosporidiosis in one of the representative examples of a parasitic disease. It is caused by the parasite Cryptosporidium pavum. It is a protozoan intracellular parasite often leading to opportunistic infections due to precipitation of severe
immunocompromised in their hosts.

Water is indispensable to life. All life happens in the medium of water which  includes the terrestrial forms also. So the proportion of all living organisms is more than 70% water. Hence, water is important and yet may be a major source of infections. This problems has seen an upsurge in modern times because of industrialization, urbanization and population density growth.

Author: Rizwana Qadri and Muneeb A. Faiq

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