"Our findings reinforce the growing interest in looking more carefully at arsenic-exposure issues in the United States," he added.
The study, coordinated by Ahsan and co-author Faruque Parvez, DrPH, of Columbia University, was the next step in the Health Effects of Arsenic Longitudinal Study (HEALS), a long-term Bangladesh-based project, begun in 2000 and expanded in 2006.
A nation of major rivers and low-lying plains, Bangladesh is prone to frequent floods, which, along with sanitation shortcomings, have historically contaminated the nation's drinking water. This led to high rates of infectious disease and child mortality. In the 1960s, more than 250,000 Bangladeshi children died each year from waterborne diseases.
To protect those children, international charity organizations launched a massive humanitarian effort to provide clean drinking water. They installed roughly 10 million hand-pumped wells to bring up water from deep underground.
Nearly 20 years later, by the early 1990s, scientists realized that this well-intentioned plan had gone astray. Though the underground water was free from the bacterial contamination of surface sources, it was tainted with inorganic arsenic, a toxic element. This was "the largest mass poisoning of a population in history," according to the World Health Organization.
The HEALS team follows about 20,000 people in Araihazar, a region of central Bangladesh, about 20 miles east of the capital, Dhaka, with a wide range of arsenic levels in drinking-water wells. Between 2005 and 2010, the researchers evaluated 950 individuals who reported respiratory symptoms such as cough and shortness of breath to HEALS clinic doctors. The researchers tested each patient's lung function and documented his or her arsenic levels.
They divided the patients into three grou
|Contact: John Easton|
University of Chicago Medical Center