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  • Sylvia Mortoza
    My editorial entitled Our Stymied Future was published today in The Bangladesh Observer, Saturday August 2, 2003. URL:
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 3, 2003
      My editorial entitled "Our Stymied Future" was published today in The
      Bangladesh Observer, Saturday August 2, 2003.

      URL:

      <www.bangladeshobserveronline.com/saturday/na.htm>

      OUR STYMIED FUTURE


      Each time water contaminated with arsenic is pumped up to the surface of
      the earth, arsenic begins to accumulate in sediments, water, plants and in
      the animals that feed on them. Over time the kind of toxic effect we are
      seeing in people will occur in these organisms. Crop yields will decline;
      fish and meat will contain more and more arsenic and as it travels up
      through the food chain (from the water to the roots, leaves, fruits of
      plants and on to animals), more and more arsenic will be ingested by people.

      This arsenic will be stored in the soil, only to be released at some future
      date and end in an endless cycle of sickness, death and disaster. For
      example, during the coming 'boor' (paddy) season, thousands of 'shallow
      tube wells' will pump up ground-water from the same contaminated aquifers
      12-20 hours a day. Hundreds of tons of arsenic will be 'exported' to the
      surface." There are many scientific papers on this but nobody seems to take
      it to heart. Even the ' arsenic sludge' from the various technologies in
      use is a problem studiously ignored. Although there are some microbes that
      break down arsenic into 'arsine' arsine is itself a highly toxic gas that
      is even more toxic than arsenic. The test kits in use also let off arsine
      gas, exposing the handlers to toxicity

      Although many environmental initiatives have been taken up by the
      government, and many of these have been really commendable efforts aimed at
      dealing with the issues related to the physical environment, nevertheless
      where the worst environmental disaster of all is concerned arsenic
      contamination of groundwater the government seems to be impotent. But
      unless an effective action plan on Health and Environment is put in place
      soon to identify the areas of most concern, and to define the possible
      solutions, arsenic will continue to take its toll on human life.

      After all the human body can remove only so much of the arsenic it
      ingested. Beyond this limit it will build up in the liver, spleen and
      blood. However although providing people with arsenic-free water will halt
      any further physical deterioration in all but the most advanced cases, we
      seem incapable of providing it. The situation is made worse by the fact
      that more than 80 per cent of the population are undernourished and their
      ability to tolerate arsenic is therefore diminished. When many of the
      victims are children who have been consuming arsenic contaminated water
      since birth, the future for the new generation looks decidedly grim.

      Once thought to take between 8 and 14 years for the physical symptoms of
      arsenic poisoning to emerge, it is now understood that it can take as
      little as eighteen months. Although scientists and health and water experts
      have been searching for the right treatment methodology as well as reliable
      alternative sources of water supply, why many villagers are unwilling to
      adopt them is not clear especially when they see the signs all around them.
      Yet arsenic-free water can cut the child mortality rate by half. However
      the toxicity of arsenic depends on its accumulation in the body and the
      amount of time it takes to develop the symptoms, which itself depends on
      exposure, individual body defense mechanisms, nutritional status, etc.

      With tens of thousands of villagers dying slowly from arsenic poisoning,
      the effect of 25 years of exposure, something must be done to stop the toll
      on human life but a problem is constantly emerging to thwart all attempts
      at mitigation - the average person's understanding of what
      arsenic-poisoning can do is too limited. Worse it is generally erroneous.
      This makes it a disaster difficult to overcome because many potential
      victims continue to drink contaminated water despite the red painted
      warning. Why do people ignore the warnings? Is it due to a lack of
      understanding even when the outcome is staring them in the face? If
      villagers are drinking the contaminated water after its presence was
      discovered, we must ask why?

      Many reports coming out of the villages today, more than a decade after the
      disaster became know, indicate that mothers and children affected by
      arsenic toxicity are still drinking poisoned water; even when a clean well
      is nearby. Some have been introduced to solar, passive coagulation,
      sand-charcoal filters and the like, or have been taught storing water
      overnight will reduce the arsenic but do not use any of these methods. Many
      villages are reportedly without filters, yet the people seem least
      concerned, so why the apathy when so many people have the tell-tale signs
      of arsenic poisoning, some in the late stages of manifestation. Why when
      they know arsenic is a cause for the skin, liver, lung, kidney and bladder
      cancer, many ignore its portent? Yet arsenic-poisoning shortens the life
      span and causes people to lose their productivity. But the fact that
      ground water is still believed by many to be safe, or its danger can be
      ignored, is not a good sign. The government agencies and NGOs must convince
      them of the danger to life and limb.






      ----- End forwarded message -----



      ----------

      Dear Sara,

      My editorial entitled "Our Stymied Future" was published today in The
      Bangladesh Observer, Saturday August 2, 2003.

      URL:

      <www.bangladeshobserveronline.com/saturday/na.htm>

      The text is given below

      Regards.

      SYLVIA:

      Editorial:

      OUR STYMIED FUTURE


      Each time water contaminated with arsenic is pumped up to the surface of
      the earth, arsenic begins to accumulate in sediments, water, plants and in
      the animals that feed on them. Over time the kind of toxic effect we are
      seeing in people will occur in these organisms. Crop yields will decline;
      fish and meat will contain more and more arsenic and as it travels up
      through the food chain (from the water to the roots, leaves, fruits of
      plants and on to animals), more and more arsenic will be ingested by people.

      This arsenic will be stored in the soil, only to be released at some future
      date and end in an endless cycle of sickness, death and disaster. For
      example, during the coming 'boor' (paddy) season, thousands of 'shallow
      tube wells' will pump up ground-water from the same contaminated aquifers
      12-20 hours a day. Hundreds of tons of arsenic will be 'exported' to the
      surface." There are many scientific papers on this but nobody seems to take
      it to heart. Even the ' arsenic sludge' from the various technologies in
      use is a problem studiously ignored. Although there are some microbes that
      break down arsenic into 'arsine' arsine is itself a highly toxic gas that
      is even more toxic than arsenic. The test kits in use also let off arsine
      gas, exposing the handlers to toxicity

      Although many environmental initiatives have been taken up by the
      government, and many of these have been really commendable efforts aimed at
      dealing with the issues related to the physical environment, nevertheless
      where the worst environmental disaster of all is concerned arsenic
      contamination of groundwater the government seems to be impotent. But
      unless an effective action plan on Health and Environment is put in place
      soon to identify the areas of most concern, and to define the possible
      solutions, arsenic will continue to take its toll on human life.

      After all the human body can remove only so much of the arsenic it
      ingested. Beyond this limit it will build up in the liver, spleen and
      blood. However although providing people with arsenic-free water will halt
      any further physical deterioration in all but the most advanced cases, we
      seem incapable of providing it. The situation is made worse by the fact
      that more than 80 per cent of the population are undernourished and their
      ability to tolerate arsenic is therefore diminished. When many of the
      victims are children who have been consuming arsenic contaminated water
      since birth, the future for the new generation looks decidedly grim.

      Once thought to take between 8 and 14 years for the physical symptoms of
      arsenic poisoning to emerge, it is now understood that it can take as
      little as eighteen months. Although scientists and health and water experts
      have been searching for the right treatment methodology as well as reliable
      alternative sources of water supply, why many villagers are unwilling to
      adopt them is not clear especially when they see the signs all around them.
      Yet arsenic-free water can cut the child mortality rate by half. However
      the toxicity of arsenic depends on its accumulation in the body and the
      amount of time it takes to develop the symptoms, which itself depends on
      exposure, individual body defense mechanisms, nutritional status, etc.

      With tens of thousands of villagers dying slowly from arsenic poisoning,
      the effect of 25 years of exposure, something must be done to stop the toll
      on human life but a problem is constantly emerging to thwart all attempts
      at mitigation - the average person's understanding of what
      arsenic-poisoning can do is too limited. Worse it is generally erroneous.
      This makes it a disaster difficult to overcome because many potential
      victims continue to drink contaminated water despite the red painted
      warning. Why do people ignore the warnings? Is it due to a lack of
      understanding even when the outcome is staring them in the face? If
      villagers are drinking the contaminated water after its presence was
      discovered, we must ask why?

      Many reports coming out of the villages today, more than a decade after the
      disaster became know, indicate that mothers and children affected by
      arsenic toxicity are still drinking poisoned water; even when a clean well
      is nearby. Some have been introduced to solar, passive coagulation,
      sand-charcoal filters and the like, or have been taught storing water
      overnight will reduce the arsenic but do not use any of these methods. Many
      villages are reportedly without filters, yet the people seem least
      concerned, so why the apathy when so many people have the tell-tale signs
      of arsenic poisoning, some in the late stages of manifestation. Why when
      they know arsenic is a cause for the skin, liver, lung, kidney and bladder
      cancer, many ignore its portent? Yet arsenic-poisoning shortens the life
      span and causes people to lose their productivity. But the fact that
      ground water is still believed by many to be safe, or its danger can be
      ignored, is not a good sign. The government agencies and NGOs must convince
      them of the danger to life and limb.
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