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In what has been called "the largest mass poisoning of a population in history," some 40 million people in Bangladesh are drinking water that contains unsafe levels of arsenic. The naturally occurring element seeps into groundwater reached by shallow wells, and from there it has a huge impact on the health and lives of Bangladeshis; chronic exposure to arsenic is estimated to be responsible for six percent of deaths in the country. It causes cardiovascular disease, cancer, infant mortality, and motor and intellectual problems in children.
Bangladesh's government is taking measures to address the problem, and plans to invest $200 million toward cleaning up water supplies. A new study, published last week in Environmental Science and Technology, could help to inform how that money would be best spent. The analysis compares four methods of dealing with the arsenic contamination, and pinpoints strategies to deliver cleaner water to the greatest number of people at the lowest cost.
Study - Pipe - Water - System - Bangladeshi
The study was inspired by a regional pipe water system recently built by the Bangladeshi government, said Lex van Geen, a research professor at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and a coauthor on the new study. "We saw that the pipe system cost several hundred thousand dollars, and that it was only helping a tiny part of the population."
By comparing the costs and impacts of the different mitigation strategies, the study concludes that the government's strategies of constructing pipe systems and drilling deeper wells are the most expensive yet least effective options. Instead, the researchers recommend several strategies that could help more people at a much lower cost.
Study - Nadia - Jamil - Montclair - State
The study, led by Nadia Jamil at Montclair State University, pulls from van Geen's decades-long research in Bangladesh. Van Geen's work has shown that simply testing well water and providing information about the risks of arsenic poisoning can get...
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