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New study links 1 in 5 deaths in Bangladesh to arsenic in the drinking water
Date:6/23/2010

June 23, 2010 Between 33 and 77 million people in Bangladesh have been exposed to arsenic in the drinking watera 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 agoa 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 12,00
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Contact: Stephanie Berger
sb2247@columbia.edu
212-305-4372
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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