Safe to drink: Solving the arsenic problem in groundwater
My latest for Berkeley Engineer:
Every day in Bangladesh and neighboring West Bengal, India, tens of millions of people drink water containing deadly levels of arsenic. Although awareness of the problem dates to the early 1990s — and in 2000 the World Health Organization named it the largest mass poisoning in human history — no large-scale solution yet exists. The largely poor, historically marginalized people living in this region have no choice but to drink the toxic water.
And it’s not just a problem in Southeast Asia. Communities in South America, Alaska and California’s Central Valley also have contaminated groundwater, putting residents’ health at risk. Long-term exposure to arsenic through drinking water, even at low levels, can have dire consequences. The list of potential health effects includes internal cancers, cardiovascular disease, skin lesions and disfigurement and, among young people, impaired cognitive development.
Ashok Gadgil, professor of civil and environmental engineering, desperately wants to help.