Arsenic Toxicity and Consequences

Chronic Arsenicosis  is a multi system disorder: People suffer from generalized weakness, apatite and weight loss.
Chronic Toxicity effects: skin, lungs, gastrointestinal, liver, spleen, bladder, central nervous system, peripheral nerves, blood, eye and cardiovascular systems.
Clinical manifestations:
Skin: Diffuse or spoted melanosis; hyperpigmentation;
hyperkeratosis; Skin cancer. (See Pictures)
Vascular: Black foot disease; Progressive arterial disease(PVD), Hypertension/Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes.

Areas impacted and population at risk
    9 districts of West Bengal, area 14,450 square miles and living population of 34 million have been contaminated with arsenic. In 830 villages more than 1.5 million people drink arsenic contaminated water. Food products grown in these areas also contribute to increased exposure. The health risks are enormous.
     World Health Organization (WHO) maximum permissible level 0.05 ppm(parts per million) or <50 ug/L. Many parts of
West Bengal
has levels of 0.1 ppm(100 ug/L, 0.3 ppm (300 ug/L) and even up to 3 ppm (3000 ug/L), though rarely.
     Arsenic levels in hair, nail and urine of 85-90% samples made sub-clinical arsenicosis diagnosis. 90 % of children living in affected areas shows hair and nail levels higher than normal.
     Chronic arsenic toxicity develops insidiously after 6 months to 2 years or more of exposure. Time of onset for arsenicosis to develop is dependent on ground water arsenic concentration, volume consumption, health and nutritional status of individuals. Arsenic contaminated water is odorless and colorless, thus difficult to know by its appearance.

Extensive long term efforts are needed to combat arsenic crisis.
These includes:
1. Control of  Tube Wells/hand pumps (click  for picture).
2. Installation of effective and economical filter units (picture) for various settings and or shallow wells (picture), all needing proper monitoring of safety
3. Watershed management.
4. Traditional water management.
5. Early diagnosis/treatment/follow up of affected people.
6. Public awareness and education programs.

What is being done? Various government and non government organizations (NGO) are involved in West Bengal. In USA, Water for People from Colorado and many other organizations are involved in helping various regions of the world to improve sanitation and clean water availability. Our main thrust are to be directed towards clinical side of the health and wellness of affected people in affected villages at present.

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