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Arsenic poisoning in the Ganges delta


We have been studying the contamination of groundwater by arsenic and the attend-ant human suffering in West Bengal, India, for a decade, and in Bangladesh for the past four years. From our analysis of thousands of samples of water and sediment1,2,3,4,5,6,7, we have been able to test the course of events proposed by Nickson et al.8 to account for the poisoning of Bangladesh groundwater. We disagree with Nickson et al.'s claim that arsenic concentrations in shallow (oxic) wells are mostly below 50 μg per litre. In our samples from Bangladesh (n=9,465), 59% of the 7,800 samples taken at known depth and containing arsenic at over arsenic 50 μg per litre were collected from depths of less than 30 m, and 67% of the 167 samples with arsenic concentrations above 1,000 μg per litre were collected from wells between 11 and 15.8 m deep.

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Figure 1
Figure 2: Photomicrograph (magnification, ×100) showing the arsenic-containing opaque particles that are abundant in sediments.

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Correspondence to Dipankar Chakraborti.

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Chowdhury, T., Basu, G., Mandal, B. et al. Arsenic poisoning in the Ganges delta. Nature 401, 545–546 (1999).

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