Volume 12 Issue 3
Jul.  2021
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E. Shaji, M. Santosh, K.V. Sarath, Pranav Prakash, V. Deepchand, B.V. Divya. Arsenic contamination of groundwater: A global synopsis with focus on the Indian Peninsula[J]. Geoscience Frontiers, 2021, 12(3): 101079. doi: 10.1016/j.gsf.2020.08.015
Citation: E. Shaji, M. Santosh, K.V. Sarath, Pranav Prakash, V. Deepchand, B.V. Divya. Arsenic contamination of groundwater: A global synopsis with focus on the Indian Peninsula[J]. Geoscience Frontiers, 2021, 12(3): 101079. doi: 10.1016/j.gsf.2020.08.015

Arsenic contamination of groundwater: A global synopsis with focus on the Indian Peninsula

doi: 10.1016/j.gsf.2020.08.015

The first author acknowledges KSCSTE, Govt. of Kerala for providing fellowship to K. V. Sarath under arsenic project (KSCSTE/5979/2017-E&E dated 09-11-2018) and NCESS (MOES), Govt. of India, Trivandrum for providing fellowship to Pranav Prakash under Mission-SGD project (MOES/P.O/NCESS/SGD-2018).

  • Received Date: 2020-04-14
  • Rev Recd Date: 2020-07-09
  • Publish Date: 2021-07-19
  • More than 2.5 billion people on the globe rely on groundwater for drinking and providing high-quality drinking water has become one of the major challenges of human society. Although groundwater is considered as safe, high concentrations of heavy metals like arsenic (As) can pose potential human health concerns and hazards. In this paper, we present an overview of the current scenario of arsenic contamination of groundwater in various countries across the globe with an emphasis on the Indian Peninsula. With several newly affected regions reported during the last decade, a significant increase has been observed in the global scenario of arsenic contamination. It is estimated that nearly 108 countries are affected by arsenic contamination in groundwater (with concentration beyond maximum permissible limit of 10 ppb recommended by the World Health Organization. The highest among these are from Asia (32) and Europe (31), followed by regions like Africa (20), North America (11), South America (9) and Australia (4). More than 230 million people worldwide, which include 180 million from Asia, are at risk of arsenic poisoning. Southeast Asian countries, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, China, Nepal, Vietnam, Burma, Thailand and Cambodia, are the most affected. In India, 20 states and 4 Union Territories have so far been affected by arsenic contamination in groundwater. An attempt to evaluate the correlation between arsenic poisoning and aquifer type shows that the groundwater extracted from unconsolidated sedimentary aquifers, particularly those which are located within the younger orogenic belts of the world, are the worst affected. More than 90% of arsenic pollution is inferred to be geogenic. We infer that alluvial sediments are the major source for arsenic contamination in groundwater and we postulate a strong relation with plate tectonic processes, mountain building, erosion and sedimentation. Prolonged consumption of arsenic-contaminated groundwater results in severe health issues like skin, lung, kidney and bladder cancer; coronary heart disease; bronchiectasis; hyperkeratosis and arsenicosis. Since the major source of arsenic in groundwater is of geogenic origin, the extend of pollution is complexly linked with aquifer geometry and aquifer properties of a region. Therefore, remedial measures are to be designed based on the source mineral, climatological and hydrogeological scenario of the affected region. The corrective measures available include removing arsenic from groundwater using filters, exploring deeper or alternative aquifers, treatment of the aquifer itself, dilution method by artificial recharge to groundwater, conjunctive use, and installation of nano-filter, among other procedures. The vast majority of people affected by arsenic contamination in the Asian countries are the poor who live in rural areas and are not aware of the arsenic poisoning and treatment protocols. Therefore, creating awareness and providing proper medical care to these people remain as a great challenge. Very few policy actions have been taken at international level over the past decade to reduce arsenic contamination in drinking water, with the goal of preventing toxic impacts on human health. We recommend that that United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and WHO should take stock of the global arsenic poisoning situation and launch a global drive to create awareness among people/medical professionals/health workers/administrators on this global concern.
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