population arsenic poisoning in Bangladesh

Many water wells in Bangladesh are contaminated with arsenic. More than 70 million people are affected. In the 1970s and 80s various International Agencies joined together to dig wells to allow the population access to clean water.10 million wells were dug , but the presence of arsenic was unsuspected and untested for.
The arsenic is a fluke , the result of leaching from the Himalayan mountains and carried down over thousands of years. The amount of arsenic is 5 to 10 times the upper limits of safety.
The result is a terrible poisoning with 27 million drinking water with over 50 ppb arsenic and 50 million 10 ppb, the safe concentration. The food produced from plants watered by contaminated water may also be poisonous.
The safe concentration may be 1.7 ppb.
The poisoning includes blackening of the hands and feet, nodular growths and gangrene and ulcers. Cancer can be a later development.
The Lancet describes the valiant attempts of Joseph Graziano and his colleagues from Columbia University USA to try and remedy this.
The work includes clinical care but perhaps central to the whole study is to dig new wells often close to the poisoned wells which produce clean water.
Loewenberg S 2007 Scientists tackle water contamination in Bangladesh Lancet vol 370, 471-2
Loewenberg S 2007, Profile Joseph Graziano : tackling arsenic poisoning in Bangladesh. Lancet. Vol 370 p 477

Martin Eastwood
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