A policy briefing outlining the problem of arsenic contamination and offering policy recommendations on the issue.
Arsenic in drinking water threatens the health of more than 130 million people worldwide. This potent carcinogen and toxin can be found naturally in water supplies depending on the local geology. The severe effects of arsenic poisoning include skin diseases, lung and bladder cancers, and impaired intellectual development. Arsenic contamination can have a particularly severe impact in areas where ground water is used for irrigation and rice is a dietary staple.
The scale of the problem is poorly-understood and arsenic contamination is poorly-mapped. 90% of those affected by high contamination live in Asia, and Bangladesh is particularly affected after development efforts to dig shallow tube wells greatly worsened contamination. Research is important to support mitigation efforts, develop awareness, and identify and adopt safe water sources.
Map of arsenic groundwater contamination in four continents (from GeographyNOW, issue 1, 2008)
The RGS-IBG held a symposium in August 2007 (Arsenic in the Natural Environment: The Geography of a Global Problem). In July 2008 it published a policy briefing offering recommendations for mitigating and preventing arsenic contamination in food and water globally.
The briefing was co-authored by Peter Ravenscroft and Professor Keith Richards from the University of Cambridge, along with Hugh Brammer OBE, Amir Kassam OBE, and Professor Andy Meharg. The briefing was also featured in Issue No.1 of the Society’s GeographyNOW publication.
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY NC 4.0), which permits use, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, provided the original work is cited and it is for non-commercial purposes. Please contact us for other uses.
Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) (2008) Arsenic Pollution: A Global Problem. [online]. Available at: https://www.rgs.org/impact/arsenic Last accessed on: <date>
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