Findings of a recent study have shed light on a serious health hazard. IIT Mandi researchers have found that groundwater in Himachal Pradesh‘s Baddi Barotiwala area has cancer causing agents.
The study revealed that contamination caused many cases of cancer and renal diseases between 2013 and 2018. Researchers emphasized the need for monitoring industrial effluents for zinc, lead, nickel, and chromium.
“In India, groundwater is heavily used for agriculture and domestic consumption.However, rapid urbanization, industrialization, and population growth have led to increased groundwater use and a decline in its quality. Northern India has faced severe water quality issues. Similar issues are evident in the Himachal Pradesh’s BB industrial area, where industrialization has contaminated groundwater with toxic metals, exceeding permissible limits. The reliance on untreated groundwater has caused numerous health problems, including significant reports of cancer and renal disease between 2013 and 2018,” the researchers have said.
“Considering that over 80% of health issues in developing countries are linked to waterborne diseases, resulting in 1.5 million deaths annually from poor water quality and hygiene, the importance of this study cannot be overstated,” the team has said.
Using chemical hydrology techniques, the study analyzed groundwater samples, identified contamination sources, and assessed health risks. It found significant health risks linked to groundwater contaminated with geogenic uranium and industrial pollutants like zinc, lead, cobalt, nickel, and chromium.

The study was published in the journal Science of the Total Environment. It evaluated non-carcinogenic and carcinogenic health risks from oral intake of contaminated groundwater, identified key metals of concern, and created geospatial maps showing metal contamination and health risks across villages.

“Groundwater poses high health risks through oral intake, necessitating urgent remediation. Monitoring industrial effluents for zinc, lead, nickel, and chromium is essential to prevent health hazards. Policies must be framed to balance industrial development with public health for sustainable growth,” Dr. Deepak Swami, Associate Professor, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, IIT Mandi, said.
The study noted that the region’s groundwater is primarily composed of calcium carbonate with uniform uranium levels. Most metal contaminants were traced to industrial sources, while uranium and molybdenum were naturally occurring.
Human health assessments revealed high non-carcinogenic risks to adults and children primarily due to natural uranium, with additional risks from industrial sources of zinc, lead, cobalt, and barium. Carcinogenic risks were notably high for adults, mainly due to industrial nickel and chromium.
“The objective of the research was to analyze the chemical composition of the groundwater, considered readily potable by the nearby communities, and to map the pollution status in the industrial region of Baddi-Barotiwala,” said Nitin Joshi, Assistant Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, IIT Jammu.

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