Arsenic in the food chain is higher than drinking water in Bihar

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admin November 8, 2021
Updated 2021/11/08 at 7:32 AM

In the arsenic-affected communities of Bihar, arsenic from irrigation water is entering the food chain. According to research conducted by the British Council and the Union Science Ministry, this has resulted in food with greater arsenic concentration than drinking water. Even while the presence of arsenic in groundwater has been known for years, this is the first research to find the toxin in locally produced foods such as rice, wheat, and potato. Arsenic levels are over the World Health Organization’s (WHO) permitted limit of 10 micrograms per litre in 22 of the state’s 38 districts.

After West Bengal, Bihar is the state with the highest arsenic pollution in India. Arsenic is found naturally in groundwater. Arsenic poisoning of groundwater has been detected in nine Indian states.

The results are worrisome, according to Ashok Kumar Ghosh, head of the Bihar State Pollution Control Board (BSPCB) and a member of the study’s 12-person team. For the first time, he added, they have proof that arsenic is present in food, and that the amount is greater than that found in drinking water. As a consequence of the vicious cycle, water used to prepare food increases arsenic levels, resulting in cooked rice containing more arsenic than raw paddy.

“The presence of arsenic in groundwater has been a concern for all of us. Irrigation water has never been used before. However, our research has shown that arsenic is present in the food chain in Bihar due to irrigation water,” he added.

Arsenic in food is caused by irrigation using shallow tube wells that are just 30-70 feet deep. Arsenic is found at higher concentrations in shallow water. Shivshankar Prasad, a farmer from Bichoo Ka Dera hamlet in Buxar district, uses water that has 336.2 micrograms per liter of arsenic. Kamlesh Yadav, a peasant, had a reading of 574.6 micrograms per liter. The discrepancy is due to the fact that Yadav’s handpump is shallower than Prasad’s. That is why Ghosh believes that the best way to solve the issue is to drill deeper tube wells.

According to the research, rice, wheat, and potato contain high amounts of arsenic, which may raise the illness burden of those who are exposed. The research was placed in 19 communities in arsenic-affected regions. The research, according to Ghosh, was thorough and was based on a comprehensive dietary evaluation and estimate of arsenic in drinking water, cooked rice, wheat flour, and potato gathered from 91 families across 19 villages. If the study’s findings are applied to all arsenic-affected regions, around 10% of the state’s population may be eating arsenic-contaminated food. The British Council sponsored the research, which was just published in Science of the Total Environment.

The prevalence of arsenic in the food chain was found to be more prominent in districts located on the southern bank of the Ganga, such as Buxar, Bhojpur, Patna, and Bhagalpur, than in districts located on the northern bank, such as Vaishali, Naugachia, and others, according to Ghosh.

According to the research, elevated arsenic levels cause an increase in lifelong cancer risk, as well as skin disorders such as Keratosis, Melanosis, and Bowen’s disease.

“We concentrated on rice, wheat, and potato since grains are a basic diet in rural Bihar, followed by vegetables and milk. “This is the first research to perform a comprehensive dietary evaluation on arsenic-exposed Bihar residents to estimate arsenic exposure from the three main staple foods,” he added.

The research also discovered that arsenic levels in drinking water were below the WHO guideline value of 10 micrograms per liter in at least 77 percent of the studied homes. According to the research, at least 37% of households reported better drinking water, suggesting that a substantial percentage of drinking water in the examined population may have had arsenic levels of less than 10 micrograms per liter.

According to the research, elevated arsenic levels cause an increase in lifelong cancer risk, as well as skin disorders such as Keratosis, Melanosis, and Bowen’s disease.

“We concentrated on rice, wheat, and potato since grains are a basic diet in rural Bihar, followed by vegetables and milk. “This is the first research to perform a comprehensive dietary evaluation on arsenic-exposed Bihar residents to estimate arsenic exposure from the three main staple foods,” he added.

The research also discovered that arsenic levels in drinking water were below the WHO guideline value of 10 micrograms per liter in at least 77 percent of the studied homes. According to the research, at least 37% of households reported better drinking water, suggesting that a substantial percentage of drinking water in the examined population may have had arsenic levels of less than 10 micrograms per liter.

The research showed that total arsenic exposure was 36 percent in households where arsenic in drinking water was under the WHO guideline, indicating that the source of the toxin was irrigation water. The research found that arsenic levels in food were greater than those found in drinking water.

Despite the fact that there is no set WHO standard for the typical amount of arsenic in food, Ghosh claims that the food has more arsenic than drinking water. Even when arsenic levels in drinking water were above the WHO tentative recommendation threshold of 10 micrograms per liter, he added, this was the case.

 

Source: Hindustan Times

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