Journal of the Cameroon Academy of Sciences

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Increased risk of fluorosis and methemoglobinemia diseases from climate change: evidence from groundwater quality in Mayo Tsanaga River Basin, Cameroon

Wilson Y Fantong, Alain F Takounjou, Emilia Bi. Fantong, Hycinth S Banseka, Cletus D Gwanfogbe, Samuel N Ayonghe, Gregory Z Tanyileke


Current assessments of the impacts of climate variability and change on water resources commonly exclude groundwater. Thus, the identification of actual and potential health threatening elements in the groundwater, and linking up to climate variation and change at hydrologic catchment scale is an important ingredient for identifying feasible local-scaled adaptation strategies. Against these backdrops the focus of this paper was to assess the implications of climate change on groundwater-derived methemoglobinemia, and fluorosis which have been identified in Mayo Tsanaga River Basin (MTRB), North Cameroon. The basic approach of the study involved collection and analyses of previously published reports and articles that are related to the impact of climate change on water resources in Cameroon. Moreover in addition to groundwater samples that were collected from hand dug wells and boreholes in the dry season, streams, rivers, springs, and dams were sampled in the rainy season. In-situ measurements, and determination of electrical conductivity, pH, water temperature, atmospheric temperature, and alkalinity, respectively, were done. Laboratory analysis of potassium, sodium, calcium, magnesium, chloride, sulfate, nitrate, and fluoride was done by ion chromatography. The succinct results showed that atmospheric averaged annual temperature has increased from 28ºC to 29ºC over the past 40 years. Projected temperature for the year 2030 is 30ºC. Twenty seven percent of the sampled drinking water sources were contaminated by fluoride, which is causing fluorosis. The variation in nitrate suggests that during the dry season water in rivers, springs, dams, boreholes, and shallow wells contained nitrate below the WHO upper limit of 45 mg/l, while in the rainy season some shallow wells were polluted by nitrate. In contrast to the relationship of fluoride with groundwater age and depth, nitrate concentrations increased with decreasing age and depth of the groundwater. Based on the premises that a complex nexus exists between climate change, groundwater quality and health in the study area, adaptation and mitigation strategies were identified, and summarized with the accronym “ADAPT” for: Avoid untreated groundwater from deeper aquifers, Drink water from rain, rivers, and springs, Adopt local drinking water norms, Prohibit shallow well water in the rainy season and Treat young groundwater for nitrate and old groundwater for fluoride before drinking.

Keywords: Climate change, Groundwater quality, Fluorosis, Methemoglobinemia, Adaptation strategies, Mayo Tsanaga River Basin


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