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.
Molecular Nutrition & Food Research 05/2009; 53(5):542-51. · 4.30 Impact Factor