U.S. Water News Online
NEW YORK -- A US Geological Survey (USGS) scientist urges
policymakers, drinking water managers and scientists from around the
world to work together to cope with arsenic contamination of drinking
water, which is becoming an increasing problem as the world's
population rises and available clean water dwindles.
In India and Bangladesh, notes D. Kirk Nordstrom of the USGS in
Boulder, Colorado, 36 million people could be at risk from
arsenic-contaminated water, which produces debilitating skin
abnormalities and can cause cancer.
The contamination can occur naturally as minerals from rocks and
soil dissolve over time, leaching arsenic into groundwater.
Industrial run-off is another arsenic source.
Writing in the June 28th issue of the journal Nature, Nordstrom
notes that experts estimate 43% of the world's population does not
have adequate sanitation and 22% lack clean drinking water. And the
increasing demand for safe drinking water means that surface water --
from lakes, rivers or streams -- isn't enough in some regions, he
says. "This has led to an increased dependence on groundwater
resources in many parts of the world," Nordstrom adds.
The key to minimizing risk from consuming arsenic-contaminated
drinking water, according to Nordstrom, "is to incorporate
hydrogeological, geochemical and microbiological expertise into the
decision-making process of water managers, remediation specialists
"The geologic and groundwater conditions that promote high arsenic
concentrations are known," he explains, "and can help identify
Nordstrom concludes, "In the search for adequate water supplies
and in the absence of adequate information, it is prudent to test
selected wells before opening the tap to hundreds, thousands, or
more, of users."
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