Following a publication in the Lancet Journal, news recently reported that “up to 77 million [out of 162m] Bangladeshis have been exposed to toxic levels of arsenic from contaminated drinking water”. The water was mainly originating from wells that are said to have been built in the 70s, including by aid agencies. Gosh, 77 millions people!
Although I’ve heard of this news for the first time only recently, it’s not a recent discovery – nor did it happen just in Bangladesh. The UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) was already concerned by the problem in 1997. According to a paper published in the Bulletin of the WHO in 2000, ” the contamination of groundwater by arsenic in Bangladesh is the largest poisoning of a population in history, with millions of people exposed. […] 1 in 10 people who drink water containing 500 micrograms of arsenic per litre may ultimately die from cancers caused by arsenic, including lung, bladder and skin cancers.”
So what can be done? The same report offers strategies to reduce exposure, further diagnosis in the field, immediate provision of arsenic free water and monitoring and providing care for patients who have been affected. It seems that there is still a lot to be done though…
If you are living in Bangladesh, or simply have visited it, we’d be happy to hear from you. How much of this disaster is actually discussed in national debates?