Arsenic Feature Fact Sheet | The Water Page

Arsenic occurs both naturally and from industrial activity; most situations where poisoning is occurring are caused naturally. Arsenic is four times as toxic as mercury and a lethal dose to humans is a dose of 125 milligrams. In 1999 the US National Academy of Sciences reported that arsenic can cause bladder, lung and skin cancer, and could cause liver and kidney cancer. Recent research at Dartmouth College reports that arsenic might cause endocrine disruption that distorts hormones responsible for the growth and development of certain tissues in the body. Drinking water contamination by arsenic was first discovered in Argentina and research began in 1938. The national standard in most countries, including Bangladesh, remains a dangerous 0.05mg/L. The main hindrance to improvement of arsenic standards in the majority of cases is the lack of information and organization of contaminated areas. Over 13 million Americans have elevated levels of arsenic in their water. The majority of the problem is in the southwest. In 11 counties in North Mexico 120,000 people were drinking arsenic contaminated water. Over 40 million people are in danger of getting arsenic toxicity in India and one third of the tube wells tested have over the accepted 0.05 mg/L standard. An arsenic water treatment plant built in 1979 provided safe water to 90% of the people in Taiwan. Arsenic drinking water standards are under review in the United States. After nine months of research (as of March 2001), the Bush Administration will accept or reject the new standard of 10 parts per billion suggested by the EPA. The World Health Organization, World Bank, United Nations Development Programme and Asian Arsenic Network among others are working to aid countries with arsenic poisoning. Written by Jerry Owen