Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


New study links 1 in 5 deaths in Bangladesh to arsenic in the drinking water

Increased mortality is linked to chronic diseases with a 70 percent increased mortality risk among those with the highest level of exposure

Between 33 and 77 million people in Bangladesh have been exposed to arsenic in the drinking water—a catastrophe that the World Health Organization has called "the largest mass poisoning in history."

A new study published in the current issue of the medical journal The Lancet provides the most complete and detailed picture to date of the high mortality rates associated with this exposure, which began with the widespread installation of tube wells throughout the country 30 years ago—a measure intended to control water-bourne diseases.

Among the surprising findings of the study, conducted by a team of researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and the University of Chicago, and led by Dr. Joseph Graziano are these:

One in five deaths in Bangladesh (population: 125 million) is associated with exposure to water from wells with arsenic concentrations greater than 10 micrograms per liter.

Arsenic exposure was associated with increased mortality due to heart disease and other chronic diseases in addition to the more familiar medical consequences of arsenic exposure: skin lesions, cancers of the skin, bladder and lung.

An increase of nearly 70 percent in all-cause mortality was found among those exposed to the highest concentration of arsenic in water (150 to 864 micrograms/liter). But researchers found a dose-related effect that included increased mortaility even at relatively low levels of exposure, including the Bangladesh safety standard (50 micrograms/liter) and the WHO recommended standard (10 micrograms/liter).

The study draws its results from a carefully designed, prospective, longitudinal study involving 12,000 people in Bangladesh who were tracked for over a decade. To gather data for the Health Efects of Arsenic Longtudinal Study (HEALS), researchers traversed the tropical landscape over wooden bridges to interview each of the 12,000 participants and take urine samples every two years. Lifestyle and health data were tracked, allowing researchers to control for factors such as smoking, blood pressure and body-mass index. In addition, nearly 6,000 wells were tested to establish the arsenic concentration of the water source for each participant.

In an accompanying commentary in the same issue of The Lancet, Margaret P. Karagas of Dartmouth Medical School, describes the study design as "a substantial advance over previous ecological studies."

The mass poisoning in Bangladesh was a result of well-intentioned efforts on the part of aid and development agencies in the 1970s, which built 10 million tube wells in an attempt to reduce water-bourne diseases such as cholera and dysentery, according to Dr. Graziano, professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the Mailman School. While the new wells reduced exposure to the microbes causing such diseases, they yielded water contamined with arsenic, which occurs naturally in the region. Arsenic can be avoided, however, by digging deeper wells—an approach that is already yielding safer drinking water for roughly 100,000 people. The Columbia Mailman School team has been at the forefront of this effort.

"The need for a global response is apparent because the situation goes far beyond the Bangladesh borders," says Dr. Graziano. "Arsenic in ground water is affecting 140 million people across many countries and especially in South Asia. "There needs to be a concerted effort to bring safe to millions of people. Investment has not been commensurate with the magnitude of the problem."

The research is supported by the National Institutes of Health. In addition to senior author Dr. Joseph Graziano, Dr. Habibul Ahsan, of the University of Chicago and professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School, was first author.

About the Mailman School of Public Health

The only accredited school of public health in New York City and among the first in the nation, Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health pursues an agenda of research, education, and service to address the critical and complex public health issues affecting millions of people locally and globally. The Mailman School is the recipient of some of the largest government and private grants in Columbia University's history. Its more than 1000 graduate students pursue master's and doctoral degrees, and the School's 300 multi-disciplinary faculty members work in more than 100 countries around the world, addressing such issues as infectious and chronic diseases, health promotion and disease prevention, environmental health, maternal and child health, health over the life course, health policy, and public health preparedness.

Stephanie Berger | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

3-D-printed magnets

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Advanced analysis of brain structure shape may track progression to Alzheimer's disease

26.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

3-D-printed structures shrink when heated

26.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>