Environmental Science

More Than Just Arsenic

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Science  04 Oct 2002:
Vol. 298, Issue 5591, pp. 17
DOI: 10.1126/science.298.5591.17c

In order to avoid bacterially contaminated drinking water, Bangladesh has developed its groundwater resources. However, studies in the past decade have detected arsenic contamination of groundwater, and tens of thousands of cases of arsenic-related illness have been reported. Frisbie et al. present an extensive survey of well water in Bangladesh and show that widespread arsenic contamination is a major health risk, with about half of the population consuming water in which arsenic concentrations are higher than the World Health Organization guideline. In addition, several other metals, including manganese, lead, nickel, and chromium, are also present at unsafe levels in drinking water. Antimony, which can increase arsenic's toxicity, was present in 98% of the samples taken. These results should help guide efforts to provide safer water in this region of the world, including the monitoring of well water and the drilling of deeper wells. — PDS

Environ. Health Perspect.110, 1147 (2002).

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