Arsenic

Arsenic was a very rarely heard term in the water sector till a few decades back. However, in recent years, the number of areas reporting arsenic contamination have gone up drastically with over 20 countries from different parts of the world reporting arsenic contamination of groundwater (Bordoloi, 2012). With the constantly increasing number of occurrences, especially in the South Asian region, it is now recognized as a major public health concern affecting a large number of people around the world.

In South Asia, arsenic contamination in groundwater in the Ganga- Brahmaputra fluvial plains in India and Padma-Meghna fluvial plains in Bangladesh has been found to have a huge impact on human health and its consequences have been reported as the world’s biggest natural groundwater calamities. In India,  West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh in the flood plains of the Ganga, Assam and Manipur in the flood plains of the Brahamaputra and Imphal rivers and Rajnandgaon village in Chhattisgarh state have been reported to be affected by arsenic contamination in groundwater (Ghosh and Singh, nd)

What is arsenic?
Arsenic (As) is an odourless and tasteless metalloid widely distributed in the earth’s crust. Elemental arsenic is a member of Group VA of the periodic table, with nitrogen, phosphorus, antimony and bismuth. It has an atomic number of 33 and an atomic mass of 74.91.

What are the forms of arsenic available in nature?
Arsenic and its compounds occur in crystalline, powder,  amorphous or vitreous forms. It usually occurs in trace quantities in all rocks, soil, water and air. It is the 26th abundant element in the earth's crust.

Which form of arsenic is the most toxic?
Arsenite [As (III)] is most toxic form of arsenic and causes acute toxicity. Forms of arsenic such as As (III) and As (V) lead to chronic toxicity. Previously it was thought that methylated forms of arsenic [MMA (V), DMA (V)] were less toxic. However, current studies indicate that these two forms of arsenic are highly toxic.

What are the different exposure sources of arsenic?Health effects of arsenic pollution in West Bengal. Source: India Water PortalThe exposure sources of arsenic in the environment include natural and anthropogenic sources:
Natural – Leaching of ambient arsenic in groundwater from sediments containing arsenic bearing minerals; leaching and percolation of arsenic in soils.
Anthropogenic – Agrochemicals, wood preservatives, industrial sources, mineral processing, acid mine drainage, burning of fossil fuels etc.

How does arsenic enter the human body?
Arsenic can get into the human body through drinking water as well as eating food that has been contaminated with arsenic

How does arsenic get into drinking water?
Because it occurs naturally in the environment and as a by-product of some agricultural and industrial activities, it can enter drinking water through the ground or as runoff into surface water sources.

How does arsenic become a part of the food cycle?
When agricultural fields are irrigated with arsenic contaminated groundwater, inorganic forms of arsenic get absorbed by the plants and hence arsenic enters the food cycle.

Is arsenic always harmful in food?
Arsenic present in inorganic forms  as arsenite and arsenate is toxic. However, organic forms of arsenic like arsenobetaine, arsenocholine, arsenosugar, are non-toxic (these forms are mainly present in sea foods).

What happens to the arsenic that gets inside the human body?
Arsenic in drinking water is absorbed through the intestine into the bloodstream through which it reaches the various organs. The human body normally gets rid of smaller amounts of arsenic through urine. However, if there are large amounts of arsenic, the remaining arsenic accumulates inside the body and can lead to adverse health effects. However, the mechanisms underlying the adverse health effects by arsenic are not completely known. The level of accumulated arsenic can be known by investigating nail and hair samples.

What is Arsenicosis?
Arsenicosis is the medical word for arsenic poisoning, which occurs due to accumulation of large amounts of arsenic in the body.
Arsenicosis leads to adverse health effects through inhibition of essential enzymes, which ultimately leads to death from multi-system organ failure.

What are the health effects of arsenic poisoning?
Arsenic causes or increases the risk of numerous illnesses. It leads to skin damage including keratosis and skin cancer, internal cancers such as that of the lung and bladder, and diseases of the vascular system. Other health problems, such as diabetes, cancers of the other organs and adverse reproductive outcomes have been observed, but the evidence is not yet conclusive, although it keeps increasing.

What is the accepted standard of arsenic concentration in drinking water?
The guideline value or maximum contaminant level (MCL) for arsenic in drinking water is 10 ppb (according to WHO) followed by most of the developed countries. In developing countries including India and Bangladesh, 50 ppb is considered as the accepted level for arsenic in drinking water.

How much exposure to arsenic contaminated water is expected to result in skin lesions?
Evidence from the field has indicated that people drinking arsenic contaminated water for a couple of years may show arsenical skin lesions. The risk has been found to be more among people who are exposed to water contaminted with arsenic above levels of  500 μg/l . However, studies also indicate that even when exposed to a similar risk, all individuals do not display symptoms of skin lesions. The exact reason for this is not yet known.

Can one use surface water and rainwater and dugwell water as an arsenic free drinking water source? How?
These sources can be used for drinking after proper treatment against bacterial contamination and other toxins. Most of the dugwells are arsenic safe, but some of the dugwells could be contaminated with arsenic. Surface water is not usually contaminated with arsenic.

Does boiling remove arsenic from water?
No, arsenic cannot be removed by boiling as it is not a volatile substance. Rather, its concentration increases as water evaporates during boiling.

Is arsenicosis contagious?
No, it is not contagious.

How can one know if their tubewell is arsenic contaminated?
Arsenic has no distinctive taste, colour and odour. After proper collection and preservation, the water sample has to be analyzed for arsenic from an authorized analytical laboratory. Certified field kits can also serve the purpose, but these kits are only indicative in nature and not conclusive.

What are the biomarkers of arsenic?
Hair, nails, urine and skin scales of the person consuming arsenic contaminated water.

Are results based on field kit analysis a reliable method to assess the presence of arsenic in water?
Field kit analysis results may be accepted as an indicative result and may be conclusively accepted only after verification with laboratory procedures of testing. In the past, it has been observed that field kit analysis results have often turned out to be inaccurate.

Can arsenic affect an unborn child?
Although there is no evidence that arsenic can harm pregnant women or their fetuses, studies in animals have shown that doses of arsenic that are large enough to cause illness in pregnant females may cause low birth weight, fetal malformations, or fetal death.

References

The Arsenic Knowledge Network

What is the Arsenic Network?Arsenic knowledge network logo
The Arsenic Network is a knowledge-driven dynamic network of partner organizations and individual members, anchored by SaciWATERs and Arghyam, for sharing a common vision of bringing systematic and structural changes in arsenic mitigation strategies across India.

The Network is an attempt to create a repository of knowledge in arsenic studies across South Asia and enable action based on this knowledge, towards addressing the issue on ground by supporting coordinated efforts for arsenic mitigation.

To join the network, please mail us at contact@indiawaterportal.org.

  • The theme for the Conclave this year is “Water Use Efficiency: An Imperative for India” to highlight the imperative of water use efficiency in the industry, agriculture and urban contexts.  The Indian economy at present is struggling with excessive population growth and changing water reso...
    Water Awards 2016posted 2 weeks 23 hours agoread more
  • Back in 2015, the Member of Parliament (MP) from Balasore, Odisha got to know about a strange problem in his constituency. There were reports of a number of bone deformities and crippled people in areas surrounding Patripal village of Remuna block. They seemed to be related to fluoride in water, cau...
    priyadposted 2 months 2 weeks agoread more
  • Illegal slums on Maharashtra mudflats cause loss to state According to a new study--Effect of water pollution and encroachment on tourism potential of eco sensitive area: Case of Mahul Creek--the state is losing more than Rs 200 crore annually in tourism because of 60,000 slums that have illegally ...
    swatiposted 3 months 3 weeks agoread more
  • Acute water shortage impacts thermal power generation The country has lost nearly 5,870 million units of power generation due to the nonavailability of water till February in this financial year. Moreover, the loss of generation has significantly increased over the past three years. Power minister ...
    swatiposted 8 months 6 days agoread more
  • Arsenic present in drinking water at many habitations: Centre The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation has informed the Rajya Sabha that drinking water in 66,663 habitations across the country is affected by arsenic and fluoride contamination. However, the government is working to provide...
    swatiposted 9 months 1 week agoread more
  • The much-anticipated budget this year treads largely on the path set last year with the rural sector receiving more allocation than its urban counterpart. On the surface, the budget indicates an increase in rural spending under the rural employment guarantee, sanitation, water resources and agricult...
    Amita Bhaduriposted 9 months 2 weeks agoread more
  • Lingaraj Jena is a worried man. At 86, he is one of the older fishermen in Berhampura village, an island on the Chilika lake in Odisha. Though he no longer goes for fishing due to old age, he is worried about the opening of new sea mouths; he knows it is not good news for the fishing communities he ...
    makarandpurohitposted 10 months 2 weeks agoread more
  • About: Advanced Center for Water Resources Development and Management (ACWADAM) is conducting a fifteen-day training programme on basic hydrogeology or groundwater science, for professionals from civil society organisations or NGOs. Details: The training is not intended to be a ‘stand alone exerc...
    aarti kelkar kh...posted 1 year 2 days agoread more
  • Jail term for selling packaged water above MRP: Government Consumer affairs minister, Ram Vilas Paswan has ordered to impose a penalty and jail term on those who sell bottled water above the maximum retail price (MRP). The order is in line with the section 36 of Legal Metrology Act, that clearly or...
    swatiposted 1 year 1 month agoread more
  • Call for Nominations Fourth Edition of FICCI Water Awards December 14, 2016 at FICCI, Federation House, Tansen Marg, New Delhi. Introduction The FICCI Water Awards were launched under the aegis of FICCI Water Mission, to promote awareness, policy advocacy, sharing of best practices and th...
    Water Awards 2016posted 1 year 1 month agoread more
  • Guwahati, one of the fastest growing cities in India, is thousands of years old. Once known as Pragjyotishpura or the city of eastern light, Guwahati has many ancient stories attached to it. This beautiful city finds mention in epics such as Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Puranas. Guwahati served as ...
    Usha Dewaniposted 1 year 2 months agoread more
  • Centre launches 231 projects under Namami Gange The water resources ministry has launched 231 projects at 103 locations in seven states, with an estimated cost of Rs 1500 crore, to fast track the implementation of Namami Gange programme. The projects have been split among the seven states...
    swatiposted 1 year 4 months agoread more
  • Delhi, home to 16.75 million people, is in the grip of a major water crisis. Statistics by the Delhi Jal Board for the year 2011 suggest that the water deficit stands at about 250 million gallons per day with the supply being 830 million gallons per day. Unaccounted for water--the gap between t...
    Amita Bhaduriposted 1 year 10 months agoread more
  • Three villages displaced by Tehri dam finally recognised as revenue villagesFollowing a four decade struggle by those displaced by the Tehri dam, the Uttarakhand Government has finally recognised three villages as revenue villages. The three villages have been renamed as Tehri Bhagirathi Nagar, Ghon...
    swatiposted 1 year 11 months agoread more
  • Chhattisgarh ranked number 1 in the country for providing domestic water connections in 2014-15 under the National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP). Despite this, the government has failed to provide safe and clean drinking water to many who are still affected by fluoride, arsenic and iron con...
    makarandpurohitposted 2 years 2 weeks agoread more
  • Current evidence shows that the number of people living in urban areas in India is expected to more than double and grow to around 800 million by 2050, which will pose unprecedented challenges for water management in the country. The paper titled 'Urban water systems in India: Typologies and hy...
    aarti kelkar kh...posted 2 years 1 month agoread more
  • Even in the remotest village of Assam, you would often find one saying ‘paanir nisina daam’ (meaning as cheap as water) or ‘paanir nisina xorol’ (as simple as water) over a good bargain or an easy task. Water is, almost always, associated with simplicity and abundance.But those were the good...
    Usha Dewaniposted 2 years 3 months agoread more
  • The National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) and the Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) SBM (G) are the two flagship programmes of the government implemented by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, a nodal Ministry responsible for the overall policy, planning, funding and coordinat...
    aarti kelkar kh...posted 2 years 6 months agoread more
  • Sixty eight percent of India's population lives in rural areas but when it comes to facilities -- including the availability of safe drinking water -- cities and towns corner most of them. Investments to rural India increased from Rs 31,356 crore (2002-07) to Rs 89,150 crore (2007-12) but this ...
    makarandpurohitposted 2 years 6 months agoread more
  • Hyderabad, which is India's fourth largest city, has a population of almost 7 million. The Musi river, originating from the Anantagiri hills, divides the city into north and south. The River flows through the city and joins the Krishna in Nalgonda. The paper titled "Stakeholder views, financin...
    aarti kelkar kh...posted 2 years 8 months agoread more

Pages

The theme for the Conclave this year is “Water Use Efficiency: An Imperative for India” to highlight the imperative of water use efficiency in the industry, agriculture and urban contexts

November 28, 2017 10:00AM
November 27, 2017 12:00PM

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

How Balasore became recognised as a fluorosis-affected district in Odisha

Back in 2015, the Member of Parliament (MP) from Balasore, Odisha got to know about a strange problem in his constituency. There were reports of a number of bone deformities and crippled people in areas surrounding Patripal village of Remuna block. They seemed to be related to fluoride in water, causing a disease called Skeletal Fluorosis.

The problem was that Government data seemed to indicate the entire Balasore district to be free from fluoride (See above figure). But how then were people getting crippled? This started a journey for the MP from Balasore, Rabindra Kumar Jena.

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

News this week

Illegal slums on Maharashtra mudflats cause loss to state

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

News this week

Acute water shortage impacts thermal power generation

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

News this week

Arsenic present in drinking water at many habitations: Centre

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

Budget 2017-18: Which social sector schemes and ministries got major shares of the pie? An analysis.

The much-anticipated budget this year treads largely on the path set last year with the rural sector receiving more allocation than its urban counterpart. On the surface, the budget indicates an increase in rural spending under the rural employment guarantee, sanitation, water resources and agriculture sectors and an unchanged outlay in drinking water despite its significance.

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

The opening of sea mouths in the Chilika is increasing the salinity of the lake, affecting the fish population and the livelihood of the fishing communities.

Lingaraj Jena is a worried man. At 86, he is one of the older fishermen in Berhampura village, an island on the Chilika lake in Odisha. Though he no longer goes for fishing due to old age, he is worried about the opening of new sea mouths; he knows it is not good news for the fishing communities he is a part of that depend on the Chilika for their livelihood. If the government did not act on the people's concern urgently, he believes it could spell doom to the fisherfolk.

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

About: Advanced Center for Water Resources Development and Management (ACWADAM) is conducting a fifteen-day training programme on basic hydrogeology or groundwater science, for professionals from civil society organisations or NGOs.

Details: The training is not intended to be a ‘stand alone exercise’ in capacity building, but will be followed by ACWADAM providing facilitation to promising trainee organisations in their respective field areas. 

January 2, 2017 9:00AM

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

News this week

Jail term for selling packaged water above MRP: Government

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

December 14, 2016 9:30AM

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Arsenic