Providing clean water: lessons from BangladeshBMJ 2001; 322 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.322.7287.626 (Published 17 March 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;322:626
Large parts of the world face an unwelcome choice between arsenic and micro-organisms
- Rhona MacDonald, editorial registrar.
The people of Bangladesh are being slowly poisoned. Although the world has known this since 1998, the full implications are only just being realised. Up to 57 million of Bangladesh's 130 million inhabitants are drinking water that contains harmful concentrations of arsenic.1 The tragedy is twofold: it was a well intentioned public health measure that caused the problem in the first place, and there are no easy solutions. Discussion at a meeting in January between the Department for International Development, the British Geological Survey, and non-governmental organisations emphasised the difficulties of reaching a workable long term solution.
The World Health Organization's provisional guideline is that drinking water should contain no more than 10 μg/l of arsenic,2 though the Bangladesh standard is 50 μg/l. Water samples from many Bangladeshi tubewells have concentrations exceeding these values, with extreme concentrations greater than 500 μg/l. 1 3
Chronic arsenic ingestion has many health consequences, ranging from skin disorders to cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular, respiratory, and peripheral vascular …