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This communication presents results of our 2-year survey on groundwater arsenic contamination in three districts Ballia, Varanasi and Gazipur of Uttar Pradesh (UP) in the upper and middle Ganga plain, India. Analyses of 4,780 tubewell water samples revealed that arsenic concentrations in 46.5% exceeded 10 microg/L, in 26.7%, 50 microg/L and in 10% 300 microg/L limits. Arsenic concentrations up to 3,192 microg//L were observed. The age of tubewells (n=1,881) ranged from less than a year to 32 years, with an average of 6.5 years. Our study shows that older tubewells had a greater chance of contamination. Depth of tubewells (n=3,810) varied from 6 to 60.5 m with a mean of 25.75 m. A detailed study in three administrative units within Ballia district, i.e. block, Gram Panchayet, and village was carried out to assess the magnitude of the contamination. Before our survey the affected villagers were not aware that they were suffering from arsenical toxicity through contaminated drinking water. A preliminary clinical examination in 11 affected villages (10 from Ballia and 1 from Gazipur district) revealed typical arsenical skin lesions ranging from melanosis, keratosis to Bowens (suspected). Out of 989 villagers (691 adults, and 298 children) screened, 137 (19.8%) of the adults and 17 (5.7%) of the children were diagnosed to have typical arsenical skin lesions. Arsenical neuropathy and adverse obstetric outcome were also observed, indicating severity of exposure. The range of arsenic concentrations in hair, nail and urine was 137-10,900, 764-19,700 microg/kg, and 23-4,030 microg/L, respectively. The urine, hair and nail concentrations of arsenic correlated significantly (r=0.76, 0.61, and 0.55, respectively) with drinking water arsenic concentrations. The similarity to previous studies on arsenic contamination in West Bengal, Bihar and Bangladesh indicates that people from a significant part of the surveyed areas in UP are suffering and this will spread unless drives to raise awareness of arsenic toxicity are undertaken and an arsenic safe water supply is immediately introduced.
Science of The Total Environment 12/2006; 370(2-3):310-22. DOI:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2006.06.015 · 3.16 Impact Factor