Arsenic Poisoning: Are we Losing Ground!



E-Bangladesh is a News/Headlines service and a group blog aimed at bringing the news and analysis from Bangladesh to its readers.

Part-I: Posted Earlier.

Part -II: Its a catastrophe waiting.

The Daily Ittefaq published an article on July 26, 2008 that 80 million people of Bangladesh have high risk of arsenic poisoning. Specialists from Dhaka Medical College, Mitford Hospital, and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University reported a rapid increase in different cancers, liver cirrhosis, kidney, skin patients due to arsenic poisoning. If this continues a catastrophe of deaths will augment day by day. Dr. M. N. Huda of Mitford Hospitals said that arsenic patients from Kachua, Motaleb of Chadpur, Daundkandi of Commilla and Mushiganj are reported to be in increasing numbers day by day.

SOS-ARSENIC is reporting about this problem for the last decade.

Long-term exposure to arsenic in drinking-water causes increased risks of cancer in the skin, lungs, bladder and kidney. It also leads to other skin-related problems such hyperkeratosis and changes in pigmentation. Consumption of arsenic also leads to disturbance of the cardiovascular and nervous system functions and eventually leads to death. (WHO report, Smith et. al, Sept. 8, 2000) (

Smith predicted a big increase over the coming years in the number of cases of disease caused by arsenic. These ranged from skin lesions to cancers of the bladder, kidney, lung and skin to cardiovascular problems. Bangladesh is grappling with the largest mass poisoning of a population in history because groundwater used for drinking has been contaminated with arsenic.

Photo: Matabber of Purbogangabarti, Faridpur and 10 members of the family died because of drinking arsenic contaminated water above 800 µg/l (80 times higher than WHO standard) for decades.

Arsenic dose vs. deaths

In Region of northern Chile, 5-10% of all deaths occurring among those over the age of 30 were attributable to arsenic caused internal cancers, in particular bladder cancer and lung cancer. Average exposures were in the order of 500 µg/l (0.5 mg/l) over 10-20 years (Smith, 2000).

The symptoms include Hypo pigmentation (white spot)and Hyper pigmentation (dark spots), which are collectively called Melanosis and keratosis (break up of the skins and on hands and feet).

Bangladesh’s position:

Arsenic contaminated water has affected people in Bangladesh immensely. Arsenic poisoning through contaminated drinking water can lead to diseased arteries, which in turn can cause heart attacks and strokes.

My observation in Faridpur was that those who were drinking 500 µg/l over 10-20 years are already dead or facing serious health hazards. And those who are drinking low dose to medium (most of Bangladesh’s population) only the time will say whether they will lead a normal life!

WHO showed that with exposure to water containing about 600 µg/L, which lead to 1 in 10 adult cancer-deaths may be due to arsenic-caused cancers. This is the highest environmental cancer risk ever reported.

Using the current US Environmental Protection Agency standard of 50 mg/l (same in Bangladesh), it has been estimated that the lifetime risk of dying from cancer of the liver, lung, kidney or bladder while drinking 1 litre a day of water containing arsenic at this concentration could be as high as 13 per 1000 persons exposed (30). Using the same methods, the risk estimate for 500 mg/l of arsenic in drinking-water would be 13 per 100 people (13%). In a latest document on arsenic in drinking-water, the US National Research Council concluded that exposure to the standard 50 mg/l could easily result in a combined cancer risk of 1 in 100.

Due to the carcinogenic nature of arsenic, the World Health Organisation has issued a provisional guideline for maximum permissible concentration of arsenic in drinking water — 10 micrograms per litre. But most developing countries, including Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan, still use the former WHO-recommended concentration of 50 micrograms per litre as their national standard of arsenic in drinking water, particularly due to economic considerations and the lack of tools and techniques to accurately measure such low concentrations, the study points out.

Part -III:Upcoming.

Dr. Jamal Anwar, son of poet Jasim Uddin, alumni of Dhaka University and University of Kiel. He worked in three continents notably in Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission, Dhaka University, Petrobangla, University of Kiel and is now working in a German Research Institute. He wrote 4 books, one of which on Arsenic Poisoning in Bangladesh.



E-Bangladesh is a News/Headlines service and a group blog aimed at bringing the news and analysis from Bangladesh to its readers.

14 Responses to “Arsenic Poisoning: Are we Losing Ground!”

  1. Author Image


    Now everyone is talking about the American economy and eclections, nice to read something different. Eugene

  2. Author Image


    Village Fakirabad,Veramara-Kustia district 12.08.08: Several deaths from this water, but people driniking this water as there is any alternative. Miratunessa (15), and Jharna died 13 years ago – without knowing the symptoms arsenic poisoning. They have lost three sons, one daughter , husband , mother in law, sister in law etc. from drnking water from this tubewell. They do not have yet any safe water.

    Where is SONOFILTER million dollar prize winner from Kustia district?

  3. Author Image


    Andre, I personally know the man who has won the SONOFILTER million dollar prize, Hussain is it?

  4. Author Image


    nevermind hussam yes i know him he has come to my house a couple of times nice gentleman

Comments are closed.