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Environment Magazine September/October 2008


March-April 2017

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Global Arsenic Contamination: Living With the Poison Nectar

Arsenic is a category-I carcinogen that naturally occurs in the earth's crust and is found in more than 200 minerals.1 At certain pH, redox, and temperature conditions coupled with solution composition, arsenic easily gets dissolved in groundwater and could potentially cause several incurable diseases if consumed over a prolonged period.2 Historically, arsenic has been an integral part of the socioeconomic aspects of society and has been utilized for various purposes such as for improving the complexion of women and feeding to horses to make them stronger.3 However, it is mainly known for its untraceable poisonous properties.4 Approximately 40% of the global population depends on groundwater for its domestic needs. Of that, 60% is extracted for agricultural purposes.5 A change from unhygienic surface water to safe groundwater for daily domestic use in India and Bangladesh triggered the release of elevated levels of arsenic, which led to the largest global mass poisoning in human history.6

Sushant K. Singh is with Sustainable Operative Solutions LLC., Santa Clara, California, and

Eric A. Stern is with Environmental Adaptive Strategies LLC, Montclair, New Jersey.       

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