The largest mass poisoning in human history
The World Health Organization reports that the arsenic water crisis, affecting over 200 million people across 70 countries, is the largest mass poisoning in human history (World Health Organization, 2000). Despite millions of dollars being spent, over 48 million people in India and Bangladesh alone are affected by widespread arsenic poisoning due to drinking water drawn from underground sources containing arsenic at concentrations well above the permissible limit of 50 ug/L. In Bangladesh, one in every five deaths occurs due to arsenic-contaminated water (The Lancet, 2010).
Since the 1970s, tens of millions of people in West Bengal and Bangladesh have been at risk of an early death from groundwater containing toxic levels of arsenic.
In Bangladesh alone, 90 % of the nation’s population uses groundwater as their primary source of fresh water, and there are over 77 million villagers in rural Bangladesh whose only water source is contaminated by the toxin. As the population has grown throughout the decades, the problem has gotten worse, and attempts to mitigate the disaster have been unsuccessful.
According to the World Bank, the arsenic crisis, stunts intellectual development, creates gender inequalities, and has already cost the Bangladesh economy US$22.89 Billion in lost GDP due to its debilitating health effects.
Arsenic is a colorless, odorless, naturally occurring metal that is found in dangerously high amounts within the groundwater of South Asia. Long-term exposure to such high levels of arsenic can lead to arsenicosis, an incurable cancer-causing disease.