Arsenic Poisoning in West Bengal, India Essay

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Arsenic poisoning affects people all around the world in their millions. Currently, more than 35 countries are affected by arsenic poisoning. People in 9 of the 18 districts in India’s West Bengal are affected by arsenic poisoning after drinking contaminated water from hand-pumped wells and groundwater. In these districts, more than 26 million people have been affected by arsenic poisoning. The impact of arsenic poisoning on an individual’s health can be devastating. Some of the health effects cited in the research article include skin lesions, ocular diseases, liver disease, neuropathies, diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular diseases, rheumatoid arthritis and cancer (Chakraborti et al., 2009).

The people most susceptible to arsenic poisoning are people who engage in farming economic activities or take care of the household. People who are economically disadvantaged also stand the risk of arsenic poisoning since they cannot afford safer drinking water other than that from hand-pumped wells and groundwater. Most of these low-income groups are found in Bengal’s rural areas. Individuals exposed to high levels of arsenic have pre-cancerous, non-cancerous and cancerous skin lesions, which is the method used to identify individuals who had been exposed to high levels of arsenic for the study. The focus of the study is the Murshidabad district. This district was chosen since it was the district with the highest exposure to toxic levels of arsenic from the groundwater that is drunk in these areas. Individuals with the highest exposure to toxic levels of arsenic were chosen for the study and they are matched up to with a control group that had not been exposed to arsenic poisoning. The 103 exposed and 107 unexposed study groups composed of individuals aged between 15 to 78 years. The exposed study group had to have been exposed to toxic levels of arsenic for more than 10 years. The study’s interest was on the non-cancer aspects of arsenic poisoning. Cancer diseases caused by arsenic poisoning can be fatal, leading to increased mortality rates. Morbidity rates of arsenic poisoning are high due to the variety of cancerous and non-cancerous diseases that the individual might contract from arsenic poisoning (Nandana et al., 2012).

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Socially, arsenic poisoning affects people differently. Arsenic poisoning is dependent on the geographic area, population groups and individuals. The fact that there is no universally defined disease caused by arsenic poisoning makes it difficult to deal with the social cost of arsenic in terms of health. Assessing the social impact of arsenic poisoning is also complicated by the fact that at present there is no way of making a distinction between cancer caused by arsenic poisoning and that caused by other factors. Uncertainty in the impact of arsenic poisoning on people’s health makes it difficult for economic planning. Environmental exposure is the most prevalent cause of arsenic poisoning. Lack of proper environmental conservation of groundwater can be attributed to high levels of arsenic in ground drinking water. The social and cultural impact of arsenic poisoning in India is devastating (Smith, Lingas and Rahman, 2000). According to Chakraborty (2012), arsenic poisoning has been known to cause bone deformities in the youth. This makes the youth less suited to contribute to the cultural and economic functions in Bengal. Only about 100 youths who showed up for an army recruitment exercise were able to pass the physical test due to chronic exposure to arsenic. This affects the ability of the youth in Bengal to make a living, limiting their social and cultural success. A youth with deformed bones might find it difficult to engage in cultural practices such as marriage. They might also be subject to cultural stigmatization since the rural populace in Bengal might consider them unclean…

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