Review

Spatial and Temporal Variations of Groundwater Arsenic in South and Southeast Asia

Science  28 May 2010:
Vol. 328, Issue 5982, pp. 1123-1127
DOI: 10.1126/science.1172974

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Abstract

Over the past few decades, groundwater wells installed in rural areas throughout the major river basins draining the Himalayas have become the main source of drinking water for tens of millions of people. Groundwater in this region is much less likely to contain microbial pathogens than surface water but often contains hazardous amounts of arsenic—a known carcinogen. Arsenic enters groundwater naturally from rocks and sediment by coupled biogeochemical and hydrologic processes, some of which are presently affected by human activity. Mitigation of the resulting health crisis in South and Southeast Asia requires an understanding of the transport of arsenic and key reactants such as organic carbon that could trigger release in zones with presently low groundwater arsenic levels.

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