[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Since 1996, 52,202 water samples from hand tubewells were analyzed for arsenic (As) by flow injection hydride generation atomic absorption spectrometry (FI-HG-AAS) from all 64 districts of Bangladesh; 27.2% and 42.1% of the tubewells had As above 50 and 10 μg/l, respectively; 7.5% contained As above 300 μg/l, the concentration predicting overt arsenical skin lesions. The groundwater of 50 districts contained As above the Bangladesh standard for As in drinking water (50 μg/l), and 59 districts had As above the WHO guideline value (10 μg/l). Water analyses from the four principal geomorphological regions of Bangladesh showed that hand tubewells of the Tableland and Hill tract regions are primarily free from As contamination, while the Flood plain and Deltaic region, including the Coastal region, are highly As-contaminated. Arsenic concentration was usually observed to decrease with increasing tubewell depth; however, 16% of tubewells deeper than 100 m, which is often considered to be a safe depth, contained As above 50 μg/l. In tubewells deeper than 350 m, As >50 μg/l has not been found. The estimated number of tubewells in 50 As-affected districts was 4.3 million. Based on the analysis of 52,202 hand tubewell water samples during the last 14 years, we estimate that around 36 million and 22 million people could be drinking As-contaminated water above 10 and 50 μg/l, respectively. However for roughly the last 5 years due to mitigation efforts by the government, non-governmental organizations and international aid agencies, many individuals living in these contaminated areas have been drinking As-safe water. From 50 contaminated districts with tubewell As concentrations >50 μg/l, 52% of sampled hand tubewells contained As <10 μg/l, and these tubewells could be utilized immediately as a source of safe water in these affected regions provided regular monitoring for temporal variation in As concentration. Even in the As-affected Flood plain, sampled tubewells from 22 thanas in 4 districts were almost entirely As-safe. In Bangladesh and West Bengal, India the crisis is not having too little water to satisfy our needs, it is the challenge of managing available water resources. The development of community-specific safe water sources coupled with local participation and education are required to slow the current effects of widespread As poisoning and to prevent this disaster from continuing to plague individuals in the future.
Water Research 11/2010; 44(19):5789-802. · 4.66 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Since 1988 we have analyzed 140 150 water samples from tube wells in all 19 districts of West Bengal for arsenic; 48.1% had arsenic above 10 microg/L (WHO guideline value), 23.8% above 50 microg/L (Indian Standard) and 3.3% above 300 microg/L (concentration predicting overt arsenical skin lesions). Based on arsenic concentrations we have classified West Bengal into three zones: highly affected (9 districts mainly in eastern side of Bhagirathi River), mildly affected (5 districts in northern part) and unaffected (5 districts in western part). The estimated number of tube wells in 8 of the highly affected districts is 1.3 million, and estimated population drinking arsenic contaminated water above 10 and 50 microg/L were 9.5 and 4.2 million, respectively. In West Bengal alone, 26 million people are potentially at risk from drinking arsenic-contaminated water (above 10 microg/L). Studying information for water from different depths from 107 253 tube wells, we noted that arsenic concentration decreased with increasing depth. Measured arsenic concentration in two tube wells in Kolkata for 325 and 51 days during 2002-2005, showed 15% oscillatory movement without any long-term trend. Regional variability is dependent on sub-surface geology. In the arsenic-affected flood plain of the river Ganga, the crisis is not having too little water to satisfy our needs, it is the crisis of managing the water.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Fifty districts of Bangladesh and 9 districts in West Bengal, India have arsenic levels in groundwater above the World Health Organization's maximum permissible limit of 50 microg/L. The area and population of 50 districts of Bangladesh and 9 districts in West Bengal are 118,849 km2 and 104.9 million and 38,865 km2 and 42.7 million, respectively. Our current data show arsenic levels above 50 microg/ L in 2000 villages, 178 police stations of 50 affected districts in Bangladesh and 2600 villages, 74 police stations/blocks of 9 affected districts in West Bengal. We have so far analyzed 34,000 and 101,934 hand tube-well water samples from Bangladesh and West Bengal respectively by FI-HG-AAS of which 56% and 52%, respectively, contained arsenic above 10 microg/L and 37% and 25% arsenic above 50 microg/L. In our preliminary study 18,000 persons in Bangladesh and 86,000 persons in West Bengal were clinically examined in arsenic-affected districts. Of them, 3695 (20.6% including 6.11% children) in Bangladesh and 8500 (9.8% including 1.7% children) in West Bengal had arsenical dermatological features. Symptoms of chronic arsenic toxicity developed insidiously after 6 months to 2 years or more of exposure. The time of onset depends on the concentration of arsenic in the drinking water, volume of intake, and the health and nutritional status of individuals. Major dermatological signs are diffuse or spotted melanosis, leucomelanosis, and keratosis. Chronic arsenicosis is a multisystem disorder. Apart from generalized weakness, appetite and weight loss, and anemia, our patients had symptoms relating to involvement of the lungs, gastrointestinal system, liver, spleen, genitourinary system, hemopoietic system, eyes, nervous system, and cardiovascular system. We found evidence of arsenic neuropathy in 37.3% (154 of 413 cases) in one group and 86.8% (33 of 38 cases) in another. Most of these cases had mild and predominantly sensory neuropathy. Central nervous system involvement was evident with and without neuropathy. Electrodiagnostic studies proved helpful for the diagnosis of neurological involvement. Advanced neglected cases with many years of exposure presented with cancer of skin and of the lung, liver, kidney, and bladder. The diagnosis of subclinical arsenicosis was made in 83%, 93%, and 95% of hair, nail and urine samples, respectively, in Bangladesh; and 57%, 83%, and 89% of hair, nail, and urine samples, respectively in West Bengal. Approximately 90% of children below 11 years of age living in the affected areas show hair and nail arsenic above the normal level. Children appear to have a higher body burden than adults despite fewer dermatological manifestations. Limited trials of 4 arsenic chelators in the treatment of chronic arsenic toxicity in West Bengal over the last 2 decades do not provide any clinical, biochemical, or histopathological benefit except for the accompanying preliminary report of clinical benefit with dimercaptopropanesulfonate therapy. Extensive efforts are needed in both countries to combat the arsenic crisis including control of tube-wells, watershed management with effective use of the prodigious supplies of surface water, traditional water management, public awareness programs, and education concerning the apparent benefits of optimal nutrition.
Journal of toxicology. Clinical toxicology 02/2001; 39(7):683-700.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Nine districts in West Bengal, India, and 42 districts in Bangladesh have arsenic levels in groundwater above the World Health Organization maximum permissible limit of 50 microg/L. The area and population of the 42 districts in Bangladesh and the 9 districts in West Bengal are 92,106 km(2) and 79.9 million and 38,865 km(2) and 42.7 million, respectively. In our preliminary study, we have identified 985 arsenic-affected villages in 69 police stations/blocks of nine arsenic-affected districts in West Bengal. In Bangladesh, we have identified 492 affected villages in 141 police stations/blocks of 42 affected districts. To date, we have collected 10,991 water samples from 42 arsenic-affected districts in Bangladesh for analysis, 58,166 water samples from nine arsenic-affected districts in West Bengal. Of the water samples that we analyzed, 59 and 34%, respectively, contained arsenic levels above 50 microg/L. Thousands of hair, nail, and urine samples from people living in arsenic-affected villages have been analyzed to date; Bangladesh and West Bengal, 93 and 77% samples, on an average, contained arsenic above the normal/toxic level. We surveyed 27 of 42 districts in Bangladesh for arsenic patients; we identified patients with arsenical skin lesions in 25 districts. In West Bengal, we identified patients with lesions in seven of nine districts. We examined people from the affected villages at random for arsenical dermatologic features (11,180 and 29,035 from Bangladesh and West Bengal, respectively); 24.47 and 15.02% of those examined, respectively, had skin lesions. After 10 years of study in West Bengal and 5 in Bangladesh, we feel that we have seen only the tip of iceberg.
Environmental Health Perspectives 06/2000; 108(5):393-7. · 7.26 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The increasing concern over human exposure to arsenic in West Bengal and Bangladesh has necessitated the development of a rapid method for determination of trace levels of arsenic in water and biological samples. We have developed a simple indigenous flow injection hydride generation atomic absorption spectrometry (FI-HG-AAS) system for the determination of arsenic in parts-per-billion levels in water and biological samples. The technique is fast, simple, and highly sensitive. The accuracy and precision of the method were evaluated by spiking known amounts of arsenic and analyzing different types of environmental and biological standard reference materials. The organic matter in a biological sample was destroyed by acid digestion and dry ashing technique. We analyzed thousands of tubewell water samples from the affected districts of West Bengal and Bangladesh. Most of the water samples contained a mixture of arsenite and arsenate and in none of them could we detect methylated arsenic. We also analyzed thousands of urine (inorganic arsenic and its metabolites), hair, and nail samples and hundreds of skin-scale and blood samples of people drinking arsenic-contaminated water and showing arsenical skin lesions. Quality control was assessed by interlaboratory analysis of hair samples. An understanding of arsenic toxicity and metabolism requires quantitation of individual arsenic species. The techniques we used for the determination and speciation of arsenic are (i) separation of arsenite and arsenate from water by sodium diethyldithiocarbamate in chloroform followed by FI-HG-AAS; (ii) determination of arsenite in citrate/citric buffer at pH 3 and total arsenic in water in 5 M HCl by FI-HG-AAS. Thus, arsenate is obtained from the difference; (iii) for analysis of inorganic arsenic and its metabolites in urine FI-HG-AAS was used after separation of the species with a combined cation-anion exchange column. Total arsenic in urine was also determined by FI-HG-AAS after acid decomposition. The species arsenite and arsenate are present in groundwater in about a 1:1 ratio and about 90% of the total arsenic in urine is present as inorganic arsenic and its metabolites.