Issue Date: August 28, 2017
At least 50 million in Pakistan at risk from arsenic-contaminated water
The first-ever hazard map of arsenic contamination in Pakistan’s groundwater shows 50 million–60 million people are at risk, according to a new study (Science Advances 2017, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1700935). Swiss, Chinese, and Pakistani researchers worked together to make the first large-scale estimates based on a model that combined local geology and a set of 1,200 new groundwater quality samples, which had found contamination many times the World Health Organization’s recommended groundwater limits. This finding shows that more needs to be done to protect Pakistan’s people, including those in the major population centers of Lahore and Hyderabad. “This is an alarmingly high number, which demonstrates the urgent need to test all drinking water wells in the Indus Plain,” says lead author Joel E. Podgorski, a geophysicist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science & Technology. Some 150 million people worldwide were already estimated to be dealing with arsenic contamination of their groundwater. Even low concentrations of arsenic in water can cause symptoms ranging from skin discoloration to liver, heart, and kidney impairment or cancer.
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