It goes without saying that water is essential for everyone. Unfortunately, according to World Health Organisation, 3 in 10 people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water at home, and 6 in 10 lack safely managed sanitation, often resulting in staggering health consequences.
Peru has long-standing problems with the quality, quantity and reliability of drinking water supplies throughout the country. In certain parts of the country up to 40 per cent of the population reported a lack of water supplies, while other municipalities exposed their population to water heavily contaminated with hazardous salts and metals like Arsenic and Boron, from using the only available source of water, which was. Peruvian regional governments are starting to actively address this issue and to provide substantial support to companies working in water purification and treatment.
There are many different pollutants present in water sources which cause a degradation of the quality of water in Peru. The most harmful and widespread ones are heavy metals, arsenic and boron. The origin of this contamination may be natural (volcanoes) or anthropogenic (mining industry). Precious metals in the ground, for example, gold and copper, are accompanied by other elements such as heavy metals and arsenic.
Arsenic concentrations in drinking water in Peru (from 0.05 mg/l to almost 0.7 mg/l) are mostly over the limit set in the Peruvian Decree (0.01 mg/l). Arsenic is carcinogenic, and long-term exposure can lead to chronic arsenic poisoning (arsenicosis). Symptoms include skin lesions with hypo- or hyper-pigmentation, peripheral neuropathy, skin, bladder or lung cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Effects can be observed after five to seven years of exposure.
The available results of water analysis show concentrations of boron alarmingly higher (from 4 to almost 12 mg/l) than the limit in the Peruvian Decree (1.5 mg/l). The long-term exposure to boron may lead to anorexia and dermatitis.
Lead is a toxic substance that accumulates in the body affecting various organs. Lead is distributed throughout the body to reach the brain, liver, kidneys and bones and is deposited in teeth and bones, where it accumulates over time. It has harmful effects especially in young children.
Exposure to mercury (even in small quantities) can cause serious health problems and is dangerous for intrauterine development and in the early stages of life. Mercury can be toxic to the nervous and immune systems, the digestive system, the skin and the lungs, kidneys and eyes.
Other pollutants in water, for instance, bacteria, viruses, and organics may originate from human activities related to agriculture, overpopulation, industry, dump sites etc.