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Last Updated : Dec 28, 2017 03:05 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

One-fifth of India's population consumes water with high arsenic content

The Ministry of Water Resources revealed that 239 million people in 153 districts of 21 states are consuming water with alarming arsenic content.

As many as 239 million people in 153 districts of 21 states in India are consuming water containing dangerous levels of arsenic, the government's reply to a question in the Lok Sabha shows.

Information provided by the ministry in the Lok Sabha reveals that 65% of Assam's population, about 21 million people, is drinking arsenic-contaminated water, the highest in any state, according to an analysis by the Times of India. The number stands at 60% in Bihar and 44% in West Bengal. Uttar Pradesh has the largest number of people in absolute terms, over 70 million, exposed to arsenic-contaminated water.

The main sources of consumption of arsenic in humans takes place because of arsenic-rich rocks through which the water filters, mining or industrial activities, and crops harvested with contaminated water.

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The acceptable level of arsenic in drinking water is 0.01 mg/litre, according to the World Health Organisation guidelines. For India, the WHO has said that, in the absence of an alternative source of water, arsenic of 0.05 mg/l could be treated as a permissible level. In these 153 districts, the arsenic level is way above both these benchmarks.

According to the data from the Ministry of Water Resources, states like Maharashtra, Kerala, Uttarakhand, Goa, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh have not reported arsenic contamination in groundwater in any district. Odisha and Rajasthan have the least affected states, with just one district in each having high arsenic levels in groundwater.

Arsenic is one of the 10 chemicals that World Health Organisation has classified under the public health concern. Consumption of even a small amount of arsenic leads to serious illnesses like cancer of skin, bladder, kidney or skin. "This has the potential of turning into an enormous health crisis," the WHO report said.

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First Published on Dec 28, 2017 03:05 pm
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