Thousands are being slowly poisoned from arsenic-contaminated drinking water in India and Bangladesh. The tube wells, which once saved their lives by preventing gastrointestinal diseases, are now killing them.
- Exposure to arsenic in drinking water has been established to cause cancer of the lung, kidney, liver, skin and bladder.
- Those who are exposed to arsenic in utero and early childhood may develop diseases such as acute myocardial infarction, childhood liver cancer and bronchiectasis, a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
- In 1982, Dr. K. C. Saha, a dermatologist in Calcutta, West Bengal, noticed skin lesions on patients, which led to the search for a cause.
- In 1993/94, he linked the problem to the high levels of arsenic in drinking water.
- Dr. Dipankar Chakraborti, Director of School of Environmental Studies, Jadavpur University, Calcutta, did extensive investigations and brought the issue to the attention of the world.
- Since then, numerous seminars, meetings, programs have been organized to raise global and local awareness of arsenic poisoning. Numerous research papers have been published.
- However, the fact remains that millions of people continue to be exposed to high levels of arsenic.
- In addition to serious health problems caused by arsenic exposure, numerous social problems have occurred. For instance, women with skin changes due to arsenic are sent back to their parents' house, and their husbands are remarrying. Affected families are being isolated. People consider arsenic poisoning symptoms a 'curse'.