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5 Diseases Caused by Water Pollution

Team AckoDec 20, 2023

The average adult human body consists of 60% water. Individuals can survive without food for several weeks, but without water, they may only be able to survive for a few days at most.

The body uses water to maintain its temperature, flush waste, and lubricate its joints. A polluted water supply increases the risk of contracting waterborne diseases.

The diseases caused by unclean water can be excruciating, and many of them lead to a horrible quality of life or even death. Here are five diseases caused by water pollution that are most common and troublesome.

Diseases Caused By Water Pollution



Water Pollution-Related Diseases

Water pollution causes the following acute diseases:

  • Cholera

The bacterium vibrio cholerae causes cholera, a severe intestinal infection. According to WHO, 1.3 million to 4.0 million cases of cholera occur yearly, and 21,000 to 1,43,000 people die from the disease.

The symptoms of cholera include severe diarrhoea, vomiting, and dehydration, though some people may remain asymptomatic. Typically, this bacteria can be found in contaminated water, undercooked fish gathered from polluted waters, and raw vegetables and fruits that have not been peeled. 

  • Typhoid

Acute intestinal ulceration and infection distinguish 'Typhoid' from other bacterial infections. It is caused by a bacteria called salmonella typhi. Ingesting contaminated food or drinking contaminated water usually causes the disease. The disease is common in rural areas that lack a basic sense of sanitation and hygiene.

This illness is characterised by a gradual onset of fever, headaches, weakness, constipation, mild vomiting, low appetite, abdominal pain, and nausea. People can also develop "rose spots, " rashes on their skin. If typhoid isn't appropriately treated, it can have grave consequences. 

  • Polio

Despite the polio vaccine being given to many people at a young age in developed countries, this disease still exists in many parts of the world. Drinking unclean water containing defecated matter can cause polio.

Most people who contract polio will not exhibit any symptoms, but some may experience meningitis, paresthesia, or paralysis. People with Polio can suffer lifelong physical or mental disabilities, and their legs are the most commonly affected.

  • Arsenicosis

Polluted water causes arsenicosis. Chronic consumption of contaminated water may cause excessive levels of arsenic in the body, leading to arsenicosis or arsenic poisoning. Mining, smelting, etc., can cause the groundwater to become contaminated naturally.

Encephalopathy, vomiting, and diarrhoea are some of the symptoms of arsenicosis. The effects of long-term exposure can also include heart disease, abdominal pain, and other related ailments.

  • Giardiasis

The disease Giardiasis affects the small intestine. The parasite Giardia lamblia is responsible for causing it. People who are infected with Giardiasis can spread the disease to others. Drinking contaminated water or eating contaminated food can also cause giardiasis. Pet dogs and cats are also prone to contracting giardia.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that this condition occurs worldwide. However, it is more common in underdeveloped countries with poor sanitary conditions and uncontrolled water quality.

Diarrhoea, weight loss, blood in the stool, and other complications are symptoms of Giardiasis that some people experience, whereas others do not acquire any signs.

Disease-causing Water Pollutants: What Are They?

Water pollutants generally fall into two categories:

Chemicals: A chemical can be organic or inorganic. These waste products are discharged from wastewater treatment plants and industrial effluents. Aquatic flora, fauna, and human health are threatened by inorganic pollutants such as sulphates, nitrates, mercury, cyanides, and phosphates.

They are highly carcinogenic, non-biodegradable, and mutagenic. Pesticides, fertilisers, agricultural runoff, and debris carried from the land into water bodies are organic pollutants.

Pathogen: Numerous outbreaks of cholera, dysentery and other diseases are caused by pathogens such as bacteria, protozoa, and viruses. These pathogens are primarily caused by agricultural waste disposed of in the water.

Water bodies are also affected by other contaminants, such as plastics, radioactive elements, and faecal waste, which are disposed of by industries and individuals. Oil spills can also pollute coastal waters.

Water Pollution Diseases: What Are the Risk Factors?

Risk factors caused by water pollution are as follows:

  • Every day, the water body becomes more contaminated with bacteria and chemicals. These contaminants can cause serious health problems. Polluted water causes diseases that affect infants, pregnant women, elderly people, and people with compromised immune systems due to AIDS or chemotherapy.

  • Radiation syndrome, cancer, and other diseases are caused by radioactive waste dumped in water bodies. When they break down in groundwater, alpha, beta, and gamma radiation are emitted by radionuclides. When ingested, alpha particles damage internal cells.

  • Waterborne bacterial infections often result in severe gastroenteritis. Neonates, abdominal cramps, and other symptoms may occur. Cancers of the lung, bladder, and heart can be caused by exposure to inorganic arsenic.

  • Additionally, severe DBP (Disinfection By-Products) exposure can lead to bladder, colon, or rectal cancers, blood cancers, and even brain cancers. Moreover, it reduces the birth weight of infants, shortens pregnancies, and causes short body structures. 

Water Pollution: What Preventative Measures Should You Take?

The government must improve clean water and sanitation availability to curb diseases caused by water pollution. However, on an individual level, drinking fresh water and educating yourself about water treatment methods such as filtering and disinfection can prevent several water-borne infections. 

Various diseases caused by water pollution can, however, be prevented in several ways:

  • Make sure you drink clean, fresh water that has been filtered.

  • It is imperative to maintain good hand hygiene.

  • Ensure that your food is adequately prepared and washed.

  • Make sure your food is not stale or unrefrigerated.

  • Use chemical methods like coagulation, reverse osmosis etc., to filter water.

  • Ensure that sewage waste is treated before it is disposed of in any water body.


Polluted water contains specific chemicals and pathogens that can lead to certain waterborne diseases. For a healthy, disease-free life, take the preventive measures mentioned above!

The number of water-borne diseases is on the rise. Maintaining a healthy diet, drinking clean water, and getting enough sleep are essential for staying fit.

An insurance plan offering comprehensive coverage will also provide much-needed financial and timely medical assistance in case of an unanticipated health scare. Take a look at ACKO's medical insurance plans for hassle-free coverage.


What Are the Effects of Waterborne Diseases?


Many common symptoms of waterborne diseases include food poisoning, diarrhoea, weak muscles, abdominal cramps, and fatigue. It is advised to rehydrate with water or electrolytes if you experience these symptoms.

What Are the Ways in Which Diseases Spread Through Water?


The two main places where bacteria grow and reside are stagnant water and contaminated water with human and animal faeces. Diarrhoea and other symptoms of waterborne diseases can be caused when humans drink, bathe, wash clothes and cook with this water.

What Are Some Tips for the Prevention of Water-Based Diseases?


It is essential to wash your hands regularly, drink clean water, use detergent to clean toilets, etc. One must also avoid using public restrooms, consume hot meals, eat in clean restaurants, and avoid ingesting water from pools and lakes to prevent water-based infections.

What Are the Most Common Waterborne Diseases in India?


Shigella, Typhoid, Dysentery, Malaria, Amoebiasis, Cholera, Giardia and Hepatitis A are water-borne diseases most commonly found in India.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. It is based on several secondary sources on the internet. As this content piece is not vetted by a medical professional, please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions.

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