CHENNAI: A severe health crisis may hit residents of Ranipet soon, if continued chromium and lead pollution by industries in the region goes unchecked.
The ground and surface water used by the residents for drinking, irrigation and domestic purposes have been recently contaminated with these heavy metals, which could cause serious issues, a study has shown.
Use of lead and chromium contaminated water leads to both carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic health problems.
Toxicity level of chromium and lead due to oral ingestion and skin absorption would cause hypertension, reproductive dysfunction, cardiovascular effects, lung cancer, cardiopulmonary arrest, damage to liver and kidney in future.
Residents have been fighting the effects of chromium contamination in their ground and surface water for decades now.
While fingers have been pointed largely at Tamil Nadu Chromates and Chemicals Limited (TCCL) factory, which was abandoned 25 years ago, a new study by researchers from Anna University has shown that a more recent source of contamination is in place.
“New industries continue to pollute the area hiding under the mask of the old contamination. Our study clearly shows that the pollution is recent,” geology professor L Elango, who led the study, said.
‘Chromium waste killing agriculture in Ranipet, poses long-term health risks’
An estimated 1.5 lakh tonnes of chromium-bearing waste remains at the site. This has already rendered 600 acres of agricultural land barren, according to farmers associations. Thus, continuous exposure to the present scenario will lead to increase of health risks of the people living in the surroundings of this region, he elaborated. The study, “Long-term exposure to chromium contaminated waters and the associated human health risk in a highly contaminated industrialised region,” was written by S Manoj, R Ramapriya and L Elango from Anna University.
It was recently published in the journal Environmental Science and Pollution Research. Groundwater in the study region is utilised for domestic and irrigation purposes and its impact on human health has not been reported yet.
“Everybody in the area knew about the chromium pollution. But, we were surprised when we saw lead in the water samples. This indicates that there are newer sources of pollution,” said Manoj.
He added while hexavalent chromium, which is found in water, was the leading pollutant from TCCL, he also collected samples of trivalent chromium which is found largely in soil. “This showed us with certainty that TCCL is not the only pollutant,” he said.
A total of 22 water samples were collected and analysed for the concentration of major ions and trace elements. The study found that the concentration of total dissolved solids, chromium and lead was high in the surface water than groundwater in this region indicating recent pollution.
“The chromium in most of the sampled water is dominated with Cr(OH)2+ and Cr(OH)3 species and the dominant species of lead was PbCO3,” the study claims, adding that the major source of contamination is the chromium waste dumped in this region and also the improper disposal of effluents from the small-scale industries in this region.
The health risk assessment in the study was made by calculating the Hazard Quotient (HQ) which poses risk when it’s higher than 1.
“The chemical toxicity of the samples was thousands of times higher the safe value near TCCL. But even in other places, the samples showed high levels of toxicity,” said Ramya who carried out the health risk assessment. “Remediation measures such as isolation of the dumped Cr waste by covering it with tarpaulin sheet or by bundling it using polythene bags so as to prevent the entry of rainwater which will prevent contamination of groundwater in the future,” the study concluded.
Open to a wide range of issues
Toxicity level of chromium and lead can cause hypertension, reproductive dysfunction, cardiovascular effects, lung cancer, cardio pulmonary arrest, damage to liver and kidney in future