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I thought you would be interested in this article from environment: YALE magazine, the Journal of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.
By Jon Luoma
The Bulletin of the World Health Organization has called it “the largest mass poisoning of a population in history,” an environmental tragedy “beyond the accidents at Bhopal in 1984 and Chernobyl in 1986.”
It’s also a case of the best of intentions gone awry. In the 1970s the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Bank and the government of Bangladesh began a major push to transform the delivery of water in that country. Rivers, ponds, mudholes and shallow pit wells, often rife with disease organisms, had been a major source of drinking, cooking and irrigation water in many parts of the nation. Children, especially, suffered high death rates from such maladies as chronic diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid and cholera.
Hundreds of thousands of tube wells were drilled in ensuing decades, and a new era of clean water seemed to have arrived. Infant mortality rates indeed plunged by about half. But by the mid-1990s, health experts, puzzled by growing rates of arsenic poisoning in the region, began to connect the geological, chemical and medical dots. It turns out that arsenic is naturally abundant in ground water aquifers under large parts of the Ganges River delta, in both Bangladesh and the neighboring Indian state of West Bengal.
In 2008 UNICEF reported that more than one-fourth of wells tested in Bangladesh had arsenic levels of more than 50 parts per billion, the nation’s drinking water standard. Even that is five times the level allowed in the United States…
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