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article imageIndia's arsenic-polluted drinking water causing cancers (Part 1)

By Karen Graham     Apr 28, 2017 in Health
Patna - In Bihar, India, literally millions of people are showing signs of arsenic poisoning, which can be linked to cancer, due to continually drinking contaminated water.
The state of Bihar, in eastern India, is one of the country's most impoverished, lagging behind the rest of the country in social and economic development. Of the 107 million people living in Bihar, over 10 million are estimated to be threatened with or in many cases, are already suffering from arsenic poisoning.
Dr. Ashok Ghosh is a professor at the Mahavir Cancer Institute and Research Center in Patna, Bihar. He says the hospital gets about 60 to 100 patients a day, and approximately 22,000 patients a year, quite a lot for a 400-bed hospital. He says the patient load is so large for cancer patients awaiting surgery that “surgery has a two-month waiting list even though the disease might become inoperable by then."
Mahavir Cancer Institute and Research Center in Patna  Bihar  India.
Mahavir Cancer Institute and Research Center in Patna, Bihar, India.
Mahavir Mandir-Patna
There is a reason why the Cancer Institute is receiving so many patients, and one of them has to do with the dismal state of public healthcare in Bihar. Government hospitals are understaffed and poorly equipped. Private hospitals, on the other hand, are too expensive for most poor and middle-income families, leaving the Mahavir Cancer Sansthan as the only alternative.
There is another reason for the hospital's increase in patient visits, and it is cancers resulting from prolonged ingestion of arsenic-tainted water. And Mahavir Cancer Institute, along with Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai, one of the best cancer treatment facilities in India, have been seeing a significant rise in the number of people coming to them with cancers of the gall bladder or liver, both which are associated with arsenic toxicity.
arsenic poisoning raindrop pigmentation
arsenic poisoning raindrop pigmentation
School of Environmental Studies at Jadavpur University
The arsenic problem has been going on in India for years
Dr. Ghush has been studying arsenic groundwater pollution levels in Bihar's water since 2004, and he told CNN News recently that the arsenic levels have shot up over the time he has been tracking the pollution. Of the 38 districts in Bihar, 17 have arsenic levels well above the permissible limits.
Some deep-well groundwater hand pumps in the Buxar district had arsenic concentrations above 1,500 parts per billion. To illustrate what is an acceptable level for arsenic in drinking water, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends levels of no more than 10 ppb, while the Indian government allows concentrations of 50 ppb, five times higher.
Other field studies done in the state over the past 15 years have shown arsenic levels in some areas of Bihar to be as high as 3,880 parts per billion. Sunil Kumar, a professor at the agriculture university in Bihar’s Sabour block conducted a field study in 16 blocks of Bihar's Bhagalpur district. Only three blocks had drinking water within safe limits. Arsenic levels were 3,880 ppb in Kahalgam, 3,610 ppb in Pirpainti and 3,500 ppb in Nathnagar.
Groundwater quality in the IGB aquifer system. a  Salinity measured as total dissolved solids  (TDS)...
Groundwater quality in the IGB aquifer system. a, Salinity measured as total dissolved solids (TDS) in the groundwater and areas where arsenic is known to be widespread. b, Volume of the water in the top 200 m of the aquifer.
Nature Geoscience
Digital Journal reported on a study published in Nature Geoscience in August 2016 that showed that 60 percent of the groundwater in the massive Indo-Gangetic river basin, named for the Indus and the Ganges Rivers is contaminated and not fit to drink or use to irrigate crops. Fully 37 percent of the groundwater was contaminated with arsenic at "toxic concentrations."
In Part 2 of this story, Digital Journal will look into the sources of arsenic in India's groundwater and river waters. It will prove to be an interesting look at how a major water source has created a negative impact on the health of millions of people.
More about India, Cancers, Arsenic, Drinking water, high levels
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