Pottery panacea for fluorosis belt

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By OUR CORRESPONDENT
  • Published 21.06.07
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June 21: Pottery could be Assam’s answer to fluorosis.

This interesting discovery by the head of department of environmental science at Gauhati University, Hari Prasad Sarma, has come as a godsend for Dhubri district’s ailing pottery industry.

His study has revealed that earthen containers, if used for storing drinking water, can prevent diseases caused by fluoride-contaminated water.

Children and pregnant women are prone to fluorosis, which affects both bones and teeth.

The disease has spread across several districts of Assam, including pockets of Dhubri where the fluoride content in water is much higher than the permissible limit of 1.5 mg.

Sarma discovered during the course of his study that earthenware absorbs 20 to 25 per cent of the fluoride in water. Water stored in pitchers and earthen pots, therefore, has less fluoride content.

The North East Craft and Rural Development (Necardo), an NGO that has been working for years to promote terracotta and pottery, believes the professor’s findings can provide a fresh lease of life to the ailing pottery industry of Dhubri.

Traditional pottery was the sole source of sustenance for more than 400 artisans from the 80 families who live in Asharikandi.

Binoy Bhattacharjee, the director of Necardo, said Sarma’s discovery was not only significant in medical terms but also a boon for potters.

“Potters are finding it increasingly difficult to save the dying art because of stiff competition from the plastic industry. But Sarma’s report has fuelled hope. If people can be made aware of the benefits of using earthen materials, I am sure the dying craft can survive the onslaught of plastic.”

Necardo intends to highlight the natural way of combating health hazards by pegging its awareness campaign on Sarma’s report.

Bhattacharjee said water containers made of clay were the perfect alternatives to plastic or metal containers. “They are bio-degradable, eco-friendly and economic. They act as natural filters and water stored in earthenware remains cool, too. Water containers made of plastic and metals are not always safe.”

Necardo will take its awareness campaign to all fluorosis-affected districts of Assam.