PerspectivePUBLIC HEALTH

Global solutions to a silent poison

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Science  22 May 2020:
Vol. 368, Issue 6493, pp. 818-819
DOI: 10.1126/science.abb9746

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Summary

Severe public health consequences of worldwide geogenic arsenic occurrence in groundwater have been recognized since the late 1990s (1). The population affected by groundwater arsenic from domestic well supplies has been frequently stated to exceed 100 million. However, this compilation is fraught with uncertainties due to incomplete and unreliable records on domestic wells that supply drinking water and incomplete testing for arsenic. On page 845 of this issue, Podgorski and Berg use statistical models to estimate that 94 million to 220 million people, with 94% in Asia, are at risk of drinking well water containing arsenic concentrations >10 µg/liter (2). In Bangladesh, a 2009 national drinking-water quality survey found that about 20 million and 45 million people were exposed to concentrations greater than 50 and 10 µg/liter, respectively, with an arsenic-related mortality rate of 1 in every 18 adult deaths (3). This global threat demands multisector solutions.

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