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Article From News From Bangladesh archives

Prolonged arsenic exposure exacerbates diarrhoea, hypertension: experts

The deliberations of the expert group meeting on arsenic, nutrition and food yesterday brought into sharp focus the need to build a long term preventive model with active involvement of researchers from agriculture, public health, soil science and universities.

The second day of the meeting organised by UNICEF to facilitate exchange of knowledge and preliminary research findings on arsenic contamination and its implications opened with the presentation by Prof Gerald Combs of the Cornell University that covered arsenic impact on food chain and human nutrition.

Prof. Gerald pointed out that it is important to understand the impact of arsenic contamination on food though in the organic form it carries a negligible toxicity. Arsenic exposure over long periods is known to exacerbate diarrhoea, cramps, anemia, hypertension and respiratory disease, he said while listing the possible implications.

"You cannot look at water separately as linkages with agriculture, nutrition and food are central to understand the pathways for arsenic mobility", he remarked.

In his presentation that evoked a lively question and answer session, Prof. Combs explained the mechanism of arsenic toxicity and its metabolic effects. Among the important factors that are likely to effect retention of arsenic are dietary intake and genetic make-up and the ill-effects can be minimised by adding leafy vegetables, fruits, proteins.

In the second presentation, Dr. John Duxbury of Comell University said at present the research work on the impact of arsenic contamination on agricultural and food quality is very scant.

The expert group meeting organised by UNICEF is a step forward to not only help minimise the worst effects of arsenic on children and women but also draws attention to the need for evolving a holistic approach. Dr. Duxbury called for international cooperation to build national capacity to deal with the issue of arsenic in its totality through workshops, internships and regular exchange of research initiatives.

Dr. Duxbury said Cornell University prepared a proposal for enhancing research collaboration with national institutes that is now under consideration with USAID Bangladesh, to study the impact of arsenic contamination on agricultural sustainability and food quality. There is certainly a genuine need to assess the impact of arsenic contaminated on soil and irrigation water on yields and quality of rice, wheat, selected vegetable crops and crop residues used for animal feed, he stressed in his presentation.

The expert group meeting deliberations concluded with formulation of a concerted research and development agenda and clear-cut identification of the future needs to accelerate Arsenic Mitigation Programme that UNICEF is assisting with a range of public and NGO partners. ( The Independent )

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Tk. 2 cr Swedish grant for arsenic mitigation

Sweden has agreed to extend financial assistance to carry out research aimed at helping Bangladesh tackle the problems arising out of arsenic contamination of ground water in the country, reports BSS.

Swedish embassy to Bangladesh has signed an agreement with the ICDDR, B to support a two-year project and provide 3.5 million Swedish kronas (about Taka 2 crore), a press release of the embassy said in city on Monday.

The project, Arsenic in Tubewell Water and Health Consequences, will begin on June 1 this year.

The project aims at performing epidemiological research in Matlab upazila of Chandpur where approximately 4,000 tubewells have been found to contain arsenic water.

The research will be done on various health consequences, including occurrence of arsenic skin lesions, consequences for reproductive outcome, effect on adult mortality, modifications of effects of the nutritional status on people who are exposed to arsenic at different levels.

The project will also provide help for developing water purifying methods and alternative water sources.

The ICDDR, B research project will be unique as it will be supported by background data and statistics that date from the early sixties. It would give some answers which would have an overall impact on the efforts that were aimed at mitigating the worst effects of arsenic contamination in Bangladesh.

The research will be implemented by the ICDDR, B in collaboration with the Swedish Linkoping University and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. The Bangladesh partner, BRAC, will carry out the arsenic mitigation activities. ( BSS)

Copyright 1998 Global Amitech


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