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Arsenic responsible for 20 percent of Bangladeshi deaths


A few weeks ago, I wrote about Stanford geoscience professor Scott Fendorf, PhD, who’s helping address Southeast Asia’s arsenic problem. The element occurs naturally in the soil and groundwater in that region and has been responsible for what the World Health Organization calls “the largest poisoning of a population in history.”

Staggering figures published in the current edition of The Lancet would seem to support that tag: According to researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, one in five deaths in Bangladesh is linked to arsenic-laced drinking water - a problem that, ironically, was initiated in the 1970s by well-meaning aid workers:

The mass poisoning in Bangladesh was a result of...agencies...which built 10 million tube wells in an attempt to reduce water-bourne diseases such as cholera and dysentery, according to Dr. Graziano, professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the Mailman School. While the new wells reduced exposure to the microbes causing such diseases, they yielded water contaminated with arsenic.

Exposure to the element causes heart disease, skin lesions and cancers of the skin, bladder and lung.

Previously: Using soils science to tackle Asia's arsenic problem
Photo by koshyk

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