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World facing 'arsenic timebomb'
BBC ^ | Thursday, August 30, 2007. | Richard Black

Posted on 08/30/2007 3:14:33 AM PDT by Jedi Master Pikachu

Farmer. Image: AFP

About 50 million people are affected in Bangladesh

About 140 million people, mainly in developing countries, are being poisoned by arsenic in their drinking water, researchers believe.

Speaking at the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) annual meeting in London, scientists said this will lead to higher rates of cancer in the future.

South and East Asia account for more than half of the known cases globally.

Eating large amounts of rice grown in affected areas could also be a health risk, scientists said.

"It's a global problem, present in 70 countries, probably more," said Peter Ravenscroft, a research associate in geography with Cambridge University.

"If you work on drinking water standards used in Europe and North America, then you see that about 140 million people around the world are above those levels and at risk."

Testing time

Arsenic consumption leads to higher rates of some cancers, including tumours of the lung, bladder and skin, and other lung conditions. Some of these effects show up decades after the first exposure.

I don't know of one government agency which has given this the priority it deserves


Allan Smith

"In the long term, one in every 10 people with high concentrations of arsenic in their water will die from it," observed Allan Smith from the University of California at Berkeley.

"This is the highest known increase in mortality from any environmental exposure."

The international response, he said, is not what the scale of the problem merits.

"I don't know of one government agency which has given this the priority it deserves," he commented.

The first signs that arsenic-contaminated water might be a major health issue emerged in the 1980s, with the documentation of poisoned communities in Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal.

Plates of rice. Image: AFP
Rice plants absorb arsenic from the soil as they grow

In order to avoid drinking surface water, which can be contaminated with bacteria causing diarrhoea and other diseases, aid agencies had been promoting the digging of wells, not suspecting that well water would emerge with elevated levels of arsenic.

The metal is present naturally in soil, and leaches into groundwater, with bacteria thought to play a role.

Since then, large-scale contamination has been found in other Asian countries such as China, Cambodia and Vietnam, in South America and Africa.

It is less of a problem in North America and Europe where most water is provided by utilities. However, some private wells in the UK may not be tested and could present a problem, Mr Ravenscroft said.

Problems abroad

Once the threat has been identified, there are remedies, such as as digging deeper wells, purification, and identifying safe surface water supplies.

As a matter of priority, scientists at the RGS meeting said, governments should test all wells in order to assess the threat to communities.

"Africa, for example, is probably affected less than other continents, but so little is known that we would recommend widespread testing," said Peter Ravenscroft.

His Cambridge team has developed computer models aimed at predicting which regions might have the highest risks, taking into account factors such as geology and climate.

Sign at lake. Image: Getty
Arsenic contamination can be a problem in parts of the US

"We have assessments of the Ganges and Brahmaputra river basins, for example, and then we look for similar basins elsewhere.

"There are similar areas in Indonesia and the Philippines, and very little evidence of tests; yet where there has been some testing, in (the Indonesian province of) Aceh for example, signs of arsenic turned up."

Asian countries use water for agriculture as well as drinking, and this too can be a source of arsenic poisoning.

Rice is usually grown in paddy fields, often flooded with water from the same wells. Arsenic is drawn up into the grains which are used for food.

Andrew Meharg from Aberdeen University has shown that arsenic transfers from soil to rice about 10 times more efficiently than to other grain crops.

This is clearly a problem in countries such as Bangladesh where rice is the staple food, and Professor Meharg believes it could be an issue even in the UK among communities which eat rice frequently.

"The average (British) person eats about 10g to 16g of rice per day, but members of the UK Bangladeshi community for example might eat 300g per day," he said.

The UK's Food Standards Agency is currently assessing whether this level of consumption carries any risk.





TOPICS: Culture/Society; Foreign Affairs; Government; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: arsenic; asia; bangladesh; easia; eastasia; food; grain; neasia; poisoning; rice; sasia; seasia; southasia; watertreatment
Another point against eating Chinese-imported food.
1 posted on 08/30/2007 3:14:35 AM PDT by Jedi Master Pikachu
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To: Sidebar Moderator

The title of this article on the BBC website at the time of posting: “World facing ‘arsenic timebomb’” .


2 posted on 08/30/2007 3:15:15 AM PDT by Jedi Master Pikachu ( What is your take on Acts 15:20 (abstaining from blood) about eating meat? Could you freepmail?)
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To: Constitutionalist Conservative; Gator113; Zhang Fei; DanielLongo; Tamar1973; Dr. Marten; brf1; ...
Pudong at night.
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3 posted on 08/30/2007 3:16:20 AM PDT by Jedi Master Pikachu ( What is your take on Acts 15:20 (abstaining from blood) about eating meat? Could you freepmail?)
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To: Jedi Master Pikachu

Hasn’t it occurred to these intellectuals that the arsenic has probably been in the drinking water for centuries? So how can it be called a “time bomb?”


4 posted on 08/30/2007 3:51:06 AM PDT by Brilliant
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To: Brilliant
They probably used 'timebomb' to make the title more sensational.

Agree with you, but now they've found arsenic in their water, they should try to get the poison out of what they drink and grow their food with.

5 posted on 08/30/2007 3:58:50 AM PDT by Jedi Master Pikachu ( What is your take on Acts 15:20 (abstaining from blood) about eating meat? Could you freepmail?)
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To: Jedi Master Pikachu

Do the modern filtration purification systems filter it out, or not?


6 posted on 08/30/2007 4:10:51 AM PDT by Quix (GOD ALONE IS GOD; WORTHY; PAID THE PRICE; IS COMING AGAIN; KNOWS ALL; IS LOVING; IS ALTOGETHER GOOD)
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To: Quix

Yes. Its levels in the public water supply are controlled.


7 posted on 08/30/2007 4:32:50 AM PDT by Clara Lou (Run, FRed, run!)
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To: Jedi Master Pikachu

God’s fault.


8 posted on 08/30/2007 4:34:52 AM PDT by NonValueAdded (Brian J. Marotta, 68-69TonkinGulfYachtClub, (1948-2007) Rest In Peace, our FRiend)
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To: Jedi Master Pikachu

This no doubt a call for more government regulation.


9 posted on 08/30/2007 4:37:03 AM PDT by westmichman ( God said: "They cry 'peace! peace!' but there is no peace. Jeremiah 6:14)
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To: Jedi Master Pikachu
Reminiscent of the DDT fiasco. Just another attempt by the lamestream media to keep emotions at a fever pitch and further their favorite these that the sky is falling and we’re all doomed.
10 posted on 08/30/2007 4:37:47 AM PDT by Eagles Talon IV
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To: Clara Lou

So, the reverse osmosis systems on well water would filter it out well?


11 posted on 08/30/2007 4:40:59 AM PDT by Quix (GOD ALONE IS GOD; WORTHY; PAID THE PRICE; IS COMING AGAIN; KNOWS ALL; IS LOVING; IS ALTOGETHER GOOD)
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To: Jedi Master Pikachu
Living is simply dangerous to our health.

I need a sterile bubble.

12 posted on 08/30/2007 4:48:28 AM PDT by RSmithOpt (Liberalism: Highway to Hell)
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To: Jedi Master Pikachu

“they should try to get the poison out of what they drink and grow their food with.”

This sux. One of the great joys in my life has been shopping at the ethnic markets in my town and cooking authentic foods from various places. Now grains from India/Bangladesh are off the table.


13 posted on 08/30/2007 4:56:14 AM PDT by Rb ver. 2.0 (Reunite Gondwanaland!)
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To: Jedi Master Pikachu

Good thing I don’t like rice.


14 posted on 08/30/2007 5:00:29 AM PDT by Constantine XI Palaeologus ("Vicisti, Galilaee")
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To: Constantine XI Palaeologus
"Good thing I don’t like rice."

Most rice sold in the US comes from Louisiana and Texas. No problems there.

15 posted on 08/30/2007 5:26:27 AM PDT by Wonder Warthog (The Hog of Steel-NRA)
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To: Clara Lou
We have a well - should we get our water tested, I wonder?

Carolyn

16 posted on 08/30/2007 5:34:02 AM PDT by CDHart ("It's too late to work within the system and too early to shoot the b@#$%^&s."--Claire Wolfe)
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To: Rb ver. 2.0
Now grains from India/Bangladesh are off the table.

No Basmati? No way.

17 posted on 08/30/2007 8:39:15 AM PDT by TexasRepublic (Afghan protest - "Death to Dog Washers!")
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To: Jedi Master Pikachu

Arsenic in the water is not a serious contender for the Global Warming follow-on. They are looking for something SUVs emit such as mall shoppers and soccer players.


18 posted on 08/30/2007 8:41:33 AM PDT by RightWhale (It's Brecht's donkey, not mine)
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To: Jedi Master Pikachu

No worries til we are faced with an ‘Old Lace’ epidemic in conjunction.....


19 posted on 08/30/2007 8:44:08 AM PDT by Badeye (You know its a kook site when they ban the word 'kook')
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To: Jedi Master Pikachu

“The UK’s Food Standards Agency is currently assessing whether this level of consumption carries any risk. “

So let’s freak everyone out and put this disclaimer at the END of the article.


20 posted on 08/30/2007 8:45:37 AM PDT by listenhillary (millions crippled by the war on poverty....but we won't pull out)
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To: CDHart

If you have cattle in the area, it’s always a good idea to get a yearly test for bacteria in your well water. Maybe a more intense analysis every other year for other unhealthy items.


21 posted on 08/30/2007 8:48:27 AM PDT by listenhillary (millions crippled by the war on poverty....but we won't pull out)
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To: listenhillary
Thanks for the info. I think the county tests it at no charge. Guess I should have it done.

Carolyn

22 posted on 08/30/2007 8:51:26 AM PDT by CDHart ("It's too late to work within the system and too early to shoot the b@#$%^&s."--Claire Wolfe)
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To: Brilliant

0.045% of the worlds population.

That is about the same as that one kid in highschool with the kooky eyes = lets make everyone wear glasses = government solves the problem again. /sarc


23 posted on 08/30/2007 8:59:13 AM PDT by enraged
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To: Brilliant; Jedi Master Pikachu
Hasn’t it occurred to these intellectuals that the arsenic has probably been in the drinking water for centuries? So how can it be called a “time bomb?”

It states in the article that, at least in the case of Bangladesh and West Bengal, the arsenic did not appear until aid agencies drilled wells.

I have previously read that in Bangladesh aid agencies were proud to have designed a new type of shallow well that was very easily constructed. This greatly reduced illness caused by drinking contaminated surface water and the wells were drilled everywhere. But it turned out that under the entire country was a soil layer containing arsenic and this poisoned all the wells.

It's a timebomb because even low levels of arsenic gradually accumulate in the body. The other article I was reading showed a man in Bangladesh with one of the common symptoms of long-term arsenic consumption, blisters on the bottom of his feet.

24 posted on 08/30/2007 9:12:58 AM PDT by wideminded
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To: wideminded
But it turned out that under the entire country was a soil layer containing arsenic and this poisoned all the wells.

That stinks. Well water is one of the primary sources of potable water in poor countries. River water is iffy because everyone uses it to dump trash. It turns out that everyone will have to used municipal water in order to stay healthy. The problem is that many of these families probably either don't have access to or can't afford to use municipal water.

25 posted on 08/30/2007 10:59:36 AM PDT by Zhang Fei
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To: Jedi Master Pikachu

THIS IS HIGH-GRADE BS!

No evidence has been presented that arsenic accumulation in the human system has led to “premature death” from drinking ground water.

There are many studies showing that arsenic can accumulate in marine life and certain plants and a steady diet of these would contribute to a more concentrated dose; if this is the etiological supposition, then it would be better to approach such a problem using an educational approach on dietary habits and the importance of a varied diet.


26 posted on 08/30/2007 11:22:44 AM PDT by Old Professer (The critic writes with rapier pen, dips it twice, and writes again.)
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To: Zhang Fei; Jedi Master Pikachu
A race to fix a 30-year-old 'solution'.

This guy won a $1 million prize this year for his solution to the arsenic drinking water problem.

27 posted on 08/30/2007 11:31:12 AM PDT by wideminded
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To: Quix

I just called may reverse osmosis water supplier, and they tell me that reverse osmosis does remove arsenic. [They take city water and then do reverse osmosis on it.]


28 posted on 08/30/2007 2:46:47 PM PDT by Clara Lou (Run, FRed, run!)
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To: CDHart

I’m no authority, but I think you would want to have it tested regularly—and not just for arsenic.


29 posted on 08/30/2007 2:48:27 PM PDT by Clara Lou (Run, FRed, run!)
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To: Clara Lou

Much appreciated. We have it on city water, too.

But we have well water if we have to go to it.

Greatly apprecaite your time and bother to answer my questions.

Blessings,


30 posted on 08/30/2007 4:42:28 PM PDT by Quix (GOD ALONE IS GOD; WORTHY; PAID THE PRICE; IS COMING AGAIN; KNOWS ALL; IS LOVING; IS ALTOGETHER GOOD)
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