08/25/2017, 12.07
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Poisoning in Pakistan: 60 million exposed to arsenic in water

The study published by Science Advance Magazine. The most endangered area is that of the Indo river plain. For the World Health Organization, the maximum level allowed to avoid health damage is 10 micrograms per liter; For the Government of Islamabad, 50 micrograms per liter. In contaminated areas, concentration exceeds the limits of government.

Islamabad (AsiaNews / Agencies) - At least 60 million people in Pakistan, nearly one in three people, are likely to have serious health consequences due to arsenic poisoning. This is the alarm launched by Science Advances experts, among the world's top scientific journals. A group of scholars analyzed 1,200 samples of water collected throughout the country and found that the most contaminated areas are those along the banks of the Indus River, which flows from north to south, and its tributaries. The levels of poison contained in the aquifers would be "alarming" and much higher than the maximum amount set by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The study was published last August 23rd. Arsenic is a semi-metallic element, very common in nature, which filters into the aquifers through rocks and sediments. The WHO estimates that at least 150 million people around the world are exposed to contamination. Taking the toxic substance for long periods of time can cause chronic disorders such as skin diseases, lung and bladder tumors, and vascular complications.

For this reason, the WHO has set the maximum concentration in water to 10 micrograms per liter (μg / L) to prevent human health damage. However, the Islamabad government has long ruled that 50 μg / L is an "acceptable" limit.

The study, however, indicates that in Pakistan the concentration would far exceed safety levels and in some areas it would reach 972 μg / L. Joel Podgorski, research author and member of the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, says the study "is the first truly complete work on this issue in Pakistan". According to the researchers, the main cause of arsenic is due to the young age of sediments. If an aquifer was originated at the end of the last ice age, about 10,000 years ago, "it is more likely to present high levels of poison than an older and deeper one, where most of the chemical elements are now dissolved" .

To aggravate the situation, however, they add, is the "irrigation system of cultivated fields. The study found a strong correlation between high levels of soil acidity and arsenic concentration. " Podgorski notes that "in the Indus valley there is a massive irrigation system, due to the dry and arid climate. This means that if you flood the surface abundantly, it is more likely that the poisonous substances will be filtered out into the aquifers. "

The high spread is due to the lack of controls by the authorities, which manage the water distribution network. In the absence of access to clean alternative water resources, most people drink and use polluted domestic water supplies. While aiming to fill a jug at a fountain in Islamabad, Ali Hasan, he says, "It would be the government's task to provide clean water, instead we have to waste time looking for clean sources of drinking water."

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