HEALTH IMPACTS: WATER POLLUTANTS | Centre for Science and Environment



Physico-chemicals parameters and their significance

Parameters Health Hazards
Color The presence of inorganic and organic impurities imparts colour to the water, decreasing consumer acceptance. Sometimes, the impurities may be toxic.
pH A measure of relative acidity of the water. It is useful in assessing the corrosivity of water to plumbing.
Alkalinity The amount of bicarbonate, the major anion in water, is related to pH and causes corrosion.
Acidity Not a pollutant, in water it neutralises hydroxyl ions
Turbidity A measure of clarity of water. If turbidity is high, there may be chances of water born diseases
Solids (dissolved, suspended, total) These provide a measure of the suspended solids that can be separated with a filter and the dissolved salts that are present in water.
Conductivity A measure of total dissolved minerals in water. A change in conductivity or unusual ratio of conductivity to hardness may signal presence of contaminants
Hardness A measure of the amount of calcium and magnesium. Hardness is a measure of the capacity of water to precipitate soap. This is particularly important if water softening is considered
Dissolved Oxygen This is a measure of dissolved oxygen in water. Decreased levels of dissolved oxygen in water affect the waterbodies
Chemical Oxygen Demand Indicates the amount of O2(MAKE LOWERCASE) required to oxidise the carbonaceous matter. COD taste is widely employed as a means to measure the pollutional strength of domestic and industrial waste
Oil and Grease  
Bromide Chlorination of water that contains bromide ion may produce bromate ion as an undesirable disinfection by-product. Bromate ion is a carcinogen and nephrotoxin
Chloride An indicator ion that if found in elevated concentration, points to potential contamination from septic systems, fertilizer, landfills, or road salt
Fluoride Excessive levels of fluoride causes fluorosis, a mottling of the surface of the teeth
Nitrate Nitrate in drinking water can cause blue baby syndrome in infants under six months old. Blue baby syndrome, or methemoglobinemia, are common symptoms of nitrate contamination. Nitrate contamination in drinking water may also increase cancer risk, because nitrate is endogenously reduced to nitrite and subsequent nitrosation reaction give rise to N- nitroso compounds; these compounds are highly carcinogenic and can act systematically
Nitrite These serve as an indicator of the potential presence of other contaminants, such as pesticides or trace organic chemicals from septic system effluents
Phosphate Excessive consumption of phosphorus may lead to osteoporosis and poor bone maintenance
Sulfate Ingestion of water containing high levels of sulfate may be associated with Diarrhoea, and other gastrointestinal disorders. Of particular concern are groups in the general population (i.e. infants and transients) that may be at greater risk from the laxative effects of sulfate when they switch abruptly to drinking water with high sulfate concentrations
Calcium Water with high calcium content is undesirable for various household uses such as washing, bathing and laundering, because of consumption of more soap and other cleaning agents
Magnesium Mg has diuretic, cathartic and laxative effects if it is present in high concentrations


  • CSE invites colleges/ universities to participate in the Ganga Monitoring Project

    CSE is conducting a profile of the Water Quality of the holy river, Ganga. The river Ganga covers almost five states: namely Uttrakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal. During its journey, it runs through almost 29 cities, 70 towns and thousands of villages - a 2,525 km journey from Gangotri to Ganga Sagar (Bay of Bengal). 

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