Health Effects

UN Report
Fact Sheet

Van Green

Web Sites
West Bengal
World Bank

Arsenic Webliography

This update was first compiled in November 2002 and updated in February 2003 by the EHP library in response to information requests about the problem of arsenic pollution of groundwater. Click on the underlined text to view the complete article or report.

Arsenic is an important drinking water contaminant, which is one of the few substances shown to cause cancer in humans through consumption of drinking water. The database has significantly increased over the last 10 years. There have a number of extensive reviews of the occurrence and potential health effects of arsenic (IPCS 2001, NRC 1999, 2001, ATSDR 2000).

The delayed health effects of exposure to arsenic, the lack of common definitions and of local awareness as well as poor reporting in affected areas are major problems in determining the extent of the arsenic-in-drinking-water problem.

Reliable data on exposure and health effects are rarely available, but it is clear that there are many countries in the world where arsenic pollution of groundwater is a serious problem. These include Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Chile, China, Hungary, India, Mexico, Peru, Thailand, and the United States.

Recent News/Reports
A search on Google News retrieves hundreds of newspaper articles on arsenic pollution.
Examples include an arsenic lawsuit in Illinois where an attorney for families says the groundwater has been contaminated with arsenic. In New Zealand an arsenic warning to watercress gatherers  was issued. Watercress is an aquatic plant that may have potential as a method for arsenic removal.

Some recent reports include WHO's draft for comments version of the "Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality - Arsenic."   The Water Sanitation Program has recently published 2 reports: Fighting arsenic: listening to rural communities and Willingness to pay for arsenic-free, safe drinking water in rural Bangladesh.

Other useful documents on arsenic include:

  • WHO Arsenic Fact Sheet May 2001

  • United Nations Synthesis Report on Arsenic in Drinking Water

  • Nat'l Academies Press, Arsenic in Drinking Water: (2001)

Studies/Articles (Click on author's name to view abstract) 

  • Hadi A. - Fighting arsenic at the grassroots: experience of BRAC's community awareness initiative in Bangladesh.
    Health Policy Plan. 2003 Mar;18(1):93-100.

  • Meharg AA, Rahman MM. - Arsenic contamination of Bangladesh paddy field soils: implications for rice contribution to arsenic consumption.
    Environ Sci Technol. 2003 Jan 15;37(2):229-34.

  • Van Geen A, Ahsan H, et al. - Promotion of well-switching to mitigate the current arsenic crisis in Bangladesh.
    Bull World Health Organ. 2002;80(9):732-7.

  • Bae M, Watanabe C, et al . - Arsenic in cooked rice in Bangladesh.
    Lancet. 2002 Dec 7;360(9348):1839-40.

  • Hanchett S, Nahar Q, et al - Increasing awareness of arsenic in Bangladesh: lessons from a public education programme.
    Health Policy Plan 2002 Dec; 17(4): 393-401

  • Milton AH, Rahman M. - Respiratory effects and arsenic contaminated well water in Bangladesh.
    Int J Environ Health Res. 2002 Jun;12(2):175-9.

Web Sites

  • West Bengal India & Bangladesh Arsenic Crisis Info Centre
    Extensive information on the causes, effects, and possible mitigation, etc.

  • EPA - Arsenic in Drinking Water
    Technical information on the regulatory limits set in the United States for arsenic in drinking water.

  • Arsenic and Human Health
    A listing of information resources compiled by the National Library of Medicine

  • Arsenic Information Resources
    World Bank project and technical information related to arsenic