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Medical Hydrogeology of Asian Deltas: Status of Groundwater Toxicants and Nutrients, and Implications for Human Health

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      Drinking water, a fluid primarily for human hydration, is also a source of mineral nutrients. Groundwater, a drinking water source for more than 70% of inhabitants living in Asian deltas, has received much attention because of its naturally occurring arsenic, but the linkage of arsenic toxicity with other water constituents has not been studied. In addition, although nutrients are generally provided by food, in under developed rural settings, where people subsist on low nutrient diets, drinking-water-nutrients may supply quantities vital to human health thereby preventing diseases. Here, we show, using augmented datasets from three Asian deltas (Bengal, Mekong, and Red River), that the chemical content of groundwater is such that in some areas individuals obtain up to 50% or more of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of some nutrients (e.g., calcium, magnesium, iron) from just two litres of drinking water. We also show some indications of a spatial association of groundwater nutrients and health outcome using demographic health data from Bangladesh. We therefore suggest that an understanding of the association of non-communicable disease and poor nutrition cannot be developed, particularly in areas with high levels of dissolved solids in water sources, without considering the contribution of drinking water to nutrient and mineral supply.

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          Contamination of drinking-water by arsenic in Bangladesh: a public health emergency.

          The contamination of groundwater by arsenic in Bangladesh is the largest poisoning of a population in history, with millions of people exposed. This paper describes the history of the discovery of arsenic in drinking-water in Bangladesh and recommends intervention strategies. Tube-wells were installed to provide "pure water" to prevent morbidity and mortality from gastrointestinal disease. The water from the millions of tube-wells that were installed was not tested for arsenic contamination. Studies in other countries where the population has had long-term exposure to arsenic in groundwater indicate that 1 in 10 people who drink water containing 500 micrograms of arsenic per litre may ultimately die from cancers caused by arsenic, including lung, bladder and skin cancers. The rapid allocation of funding and prompt expansion of current interventions to address this contamination should be facilitated. The fundamental intervention is the identification and provision of arsenic-free drinking water. Arsenic is rapidly excreted in urine, and for early or mild cases, no specific treatment is required. Community education and participation are essential to ensure that interventions are successful; these should be coupled with follow-up monitoring to confirm that exposure has ended. Taken together with the discovery of arsenic in groundwater in other countries, the experience in Bangladesh shows that groundwater sources throughout the world that are used for drinking-water should be tested for arsenic.

            Author and article information

            Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Imperial College London, South Kensington, London SW7 2AZ, UK; a.butler@
            Author notes
            [* ]Correspondence: m.hoque@ ; Tel.: +44-20-7594-6074
            Role: Academic Editor
            Int J Environ Res Public Health
            Int J Environ Res Public Health
            International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
            26 December 2015
            January 2016
            : 13
            : 1
            (Academic Editor)
            © 2015 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

            This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons by Attribution (CC-BY) license (


            Public health

            groundwater, minerals, arsenic, medical hydrogeology, delta, asia, nutrients


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