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Monday, June 28, 2010

Arsenic water killing 1 in 5 exposed in Bangladesh

Via AP :

" CHANDIPUR, Bangladesh : Hanufa Bibi stoops in a worn sari and mismatched flip-flops to work the hand pump on her backyard well. Spurts of clear water wash grains of rice from her hands, but she can never get them clean.

Thick black warts tattoo her palms and fingers, the result of drinking arsenic-laced well water for years. It's a legacy that new research has linked to 1 in 5 deaths among those exposed in Bangladesh - an impoverished country where up to half of its 150 million people have guzzled tainted groundwater.

The World Health Organization has called it "the largest mass poisoning of a population in history," as countless new wells continue to be dug here daily without testing the water for toxins.

"The magnitude of the arsenic problem is 50 times worse than Chernobyl," said Richard Wilson, president of the nonprofit Arsenic Foundation and a physics professor emeritus at Harvard University who was not involved in the study. "But it doesn't have 50 times the attention paid to it."

The issue surfaced about two decades ago, after some 10 million shallow hand-pump wells like Bibi's were sunk across the country in the 1970s with money from international donors."

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