Ganga-Meghna Brahmaputra || West Bengal || Bangladesh || Middle Ganga Plain, Bihar || Uttarpradesh
Jharkhand || North-East Hilly States || Rajnandgaon, Chattisgarh || Behala, Kolkata, WB || As toxicity- Homeopathic Treatment
Effectiveness & Reliability - As Field Testing Kits || Utility Of Treatment Plant
Causes, Effects & Remedies - Groundwater As Calamity || References

Arsenic Poisoning in West Bengal : Field Testing Kits for Arsenic



Field Kit and Health

* It is known that arsenic is one of the most toxic substances known to man. "We estimate that the maximum arsenic concentration in the immediate vicinity of the kit can be more than 35 times TLV of arsenic from a single experiment with 100 ppb total arsenic in solution. Particularly, field workers performing a large number of tests in highly affected areas are exposed to much higher level of arsenic...."
[Source: A. Hossain, et al., Environ. Sci. Technol, Americal Chemical Socieity, Web, Release Date September 4, 1999]

* However another information received from BRAC, Bangladesh, shows
In case of 300 ppb of arsenic in contaminated groundwater. when measured by Field Kit, the maximum dose to a field kit user will be 9 µg/m3 whereas the safety TLV of Arsenic in air is 10 µg/m3 (Annexure).

Wise Decision

Reliability of the Field Kits for measurement of Fluoride, nitrate, etc. are not questioned as the permissible limit are high (F- 1.5 µg/l, Nitrate - 50 µg/l etc.) and at that level Field Kits work satisfactorily. But for arsenic the maximum permissible limit is 50 µg/l and, because of this low permissible limit, reliability of of Field-Kit is questioned. From the avilable field data it appears that the Field-Kits show satisfactory results (yes/no) when concentration measured is above 200 µg/l of arsenic.

In India and Bangladesh, the present permissible limit of arsenic in drinking water is 50 µg/l and we believe soon it may be reduced to a lower value. The reasons for saying this are (1) WHO guide line value is 10 µg/l; (2) the USA is expected to change its maximum permissible limit; (3) our field data shows that a given concentration of arsenic in drinking water affects people with poor nutrition levels more than those with better nutrition levels, and in the arsenic affected areas of W. Bengal and Bangladesh millions are suffering from malnutrition; (4) adult people of West Bengal and Bangladesh drink on an average 4.0 litre of water per day [Ph.D. Thesis, Status of Arsenic Problem in Two Blocks out of Sixty in Eight Groundwater Arsenic Affected Districts of West Bengal, India; Badal Kumar Mandal, Jadavpur University, Calcutta, India, 1998] when the present WHO guideline value and maximum permissible limit 10 µg/l and 50µg/l have been arrived at on the basis of 2.0 litre of water consumption per day.

Thus for poor nations arsenic in drinking water should be even less than WHO limit.

If government of India and Bangladesh were to recommend the level of arsenic in drinking water to be 10 µg/l, then the data we are going to generate, spending millions of dollars, will not be so useful and we will have to go for sensitive instrumental techniques as we cannot expect to get any reliable data at the 10 µg/l level from the presently available field kits. So it will be a wise decision to select an instrumental technique that can determine 5 µg/l of arsenic in 95% confidence level and instrumrental technique will be much cheaper compared to Field-Kit if large number of samples are analysed, as is going to be the case in W.Bengal and Bangladesh.

Financial support required for five FI-HG-AAS laboratories against UNICEF's more than 1.0 million US $ Budget for arsenic field testing kit proposal.
In this chapter we will propose five FI-HG-AAS laboratories that can determine arsenic in 5 µg/l level with 95% confidence and 1000 samples per day (each laboratory will analyse 200 samples in approx.3 hours). The whole job can be done in 1/3 of the budget required for the field kit proposal of the Govt. of W. Bengal/UNICEF.

Field kit proposal approx. 1.147 million US dollar

5 FI-HG-AAS laboratory 0.377 million US dollar

FI-HG-AAS laboratories will provide

1. Arsenic estimation up to 5 µg/l (0.005 ppm) with 95% confidence level.
2. At least 1000 samples per day from 5 laboratories.
3. Will avoid Field-Kit controversy (Taiwan arsenic Field-Kit data suffered serious controversy).
4. Data in long run can be used for scientific purpose.
5. Established laboratories will be able to analyse other metal/metalloid and laboratories will be self sufficient and will be able to maintain its staff.