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Friday, July 3, 2020
Home Letters Belize City water supply: a public issue demanding urgency

Belize City water supply: a public issue demanding urgency

Dear Editor,

The high level of iron in the water supply system of Belize City, announced and explained by the CEO of our water company (an issue that must be addressed in any public water supply system in any country for that matter), only evidenced his poor knowledge of the importance of water in public health; but more importantly, his indifference, reflected in his choice of words and intonations, towards an issue of potential public health significance, is intolerable.

Belize is plagued with individuals in decision-making posts with poor knowledge, experience, and apathy, who are psychologically egotists. They know they don’t know and are not surrounded by a team that helps them to know; neither do they resign, because they don’t have the ethics; neither do they want to lose the perks and privileges that come with their posts. They, along with various organizations in our society, are indifferent about our national issues, unless it affects their interests.

Metallic and non-metallic elements or substances in water are expressed in ppm. The higher the ppm, the higher the presence of the element or substance. This is directly proportional to the LD50, that is, the lethal dose, the dose necessary to kill, which is different for each element or substance.

The lethal level of cyanide is smaller than that of most elements or substances. The presence of high level of iron (as announced by the CEO without specifying the ppm, implying that we are not intelligent enough to understand) in our tap water, whether as ferric or ferrous, alters the pH of water, which can render the chlorination process useless, allowing the water an ideal breeding ground, which is normally the case for waterborne diseases, including those caused by Cholera Morbus and E. coli, especially in susceptible groups like school children and the elderly.

Both pathogens are of importance to gastrointestinal health, especially in a country that has recklessly abandoned its constitutional duty of providing adequate health care services to us Belizeans, which are our constitutional and human rights.

As a medical professional with over 20 years in the practice of holistic and conventional medicine, I categorically reject the statements issued by the CEO, even though the Belize Medical and Dental Association and other health-related associations, despite the importance of water, which is critical to the quality of all lives, say nothing.

One of the basic, critical qualities of tap water is that it is colorless and more so, that it is potable. I must clarify to my reader, however, that colorless water doesn’t mean it is potable or drinkable, whether it comes from a piped water system or not.

It is also imperative that any individual or individuals supervising  or treating public water supplies should be morally, ethically, and psychologically sound, and free from any drug use, abuse, or misuse, whether licit or illicit. That is how touchy or important public water supply is. It is normally highly protected from terrorist intentions. The situation of the public water issue of Belize City only reminded me about the scandalous situation in Flint, Michigan, a few years ago, with lead in their water and the political and medical impact it had on their society.

I am sure that there are issues with the potability of our piped water countrywide. There is a high concentration of chlorine in our water, which corrodes even plastics, making them brittle. Yet, the Belize Kidney Association says nothing.

Iron irritates the stomach lining and is a health risk factor to patients with erosive gastritis, peptic and duodenal ulcers, and stomach cancer. Even when we prescribe ferrous sulfate and even ferrous fumarate, we need to be careful with such prescriptions, especially with patients suffering from what I just mentioned, and constipation. It is always recommended to take ferrous sulphate with Vitamin C for better absorption.

Also, it can stain the dental enamel, especially in children, and such iron-rich water SHOULD NOT BE USED TO DRINK TETRACYCLINE, for those who still drink tetracycline.

High iron levels in water make the water acidic, and acidic water is detrimental to our health, as it affects the absorption and synergism of other vital minerals important for our wellbeing, especially for bones, teeth, and heart health.

It can also alter our body homeostasis, making our bodies an ideal environment for certain cancers to flourish, as it is scientifically proven that cancer flourishes in an acid medium; meanwhile, an alkaline medium is a deterrent; an ailment that should be of public interest, since it is now a pandemic.

However, there are yet more serious actions to be taken about cancer. Right now, it is more the traditional blablaitis. There is poor knowledge and understanding of cancer — to the point of a couple last weekend cutting their hair, supposedly in support of cancer patients, when it is in the terminal stage of cancer that you would expect hair to fall, because of nutritional deficiency issues.

It is not the cancer that “drops” your hair. It is the side-effects of the chemotherapeutic agent used by the oncologist that causes your hair to fall, since the chemotherapeutic agent/s indiscriminately attack any fast-growing cell in your body, of which the hair cell is a part.

You are never told this, so don’t tease a cancer patient by cutting your hair, thinking that you are in solidarity. It only reflects ignorance and stupidity. I had to take the opportunity to clarify this.

The situation of the water supply of Belize City is of public health significance, and I call on the authorities for an immediate solution of this problem, which should never happen again. There must be an urgent attention to improve the filtration process. The highways can wait, since there are always budgetary justifications, that is for sure.

In 2019, with ample technology available, there is no justification for this problem to exist. It also came to my attention that the CEO referred to poor agricultural practices, which are also a contributing factor to the pollution of the New River in Orange Walk.

The problem seen in Belize only implies that we have a failed State. The impact of the hydroelectric plant in the river must also be technically and professionally assessed.

For the meantime, the households should first pour the water in a transparent glass and check the transparency before even washing their clothing and since the potability of our piped water is dubious under such circumstance, and also, since it is still raining, it is better to boil the water, or better yet, consume only filtered water.

Also, considering that our water supply has a high concentration of chlorine and conscious of our economic constraints to buy filtered water — ironically, a rich country with poor people — I advise you to leave your piped water for a day or two out in an open container, for the excess chlorine to evaporate before drinking it; boiling it immediately removes the excess chlorine and dangerous bacteria, but not the heavy metals.

Your health is your responsibility, foremost! However, as a health professional, it is my moral responsibility to guide you in your health endeavour.

Dr. Gerald Zuniga, Holistic Clinician

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