What can be done?
Education and Outreach
Education and outreach are key. Often small organizations on the ground can handle this quite well. Many, especially the poor and uneducated, do not understand the arsenic danger. There is no taste or smell to arsenic in the water and it may take many years for symptoms to show. Arsenic moves quietly doing its deadly work, and by the time symptoms are apparent, it may be too late to help. If not already tested, testing people's water supply is a key step along with assisting people to find a safe water supply.
Click on the arrow and see an example of education and outreach in action.
This video illustrates work that SIM of Bangladesh is doing and has done soon after the arsenic situation became evident in Bangladesh.
It is a good example of what a small non governmental organization can do to improve and save lives.
Researchers have been busy. There are a number of cost-effective possibilities. These include :
Ongoing education and community outreach
Alternatives for safe water supplies and/or filtration of existing water supplies.
In broad, general terms, mitigation options can be grouped into two categories:
Filter and treatment technologies that remove arsenic from contaminated shallow tube well water, such as household and community-level filter systems; and
Alternative safe water options, such as piped water supply, moderate depth or deep tube wells, improved dug wells, safe shallow hand pump tube wells and rain water harvesting.
It should also be noted that, although there are numerous technologies that technically are feasible for mitigation, social acceptance plays a big role in whether the solution will be suitable or not.
It has been noted that safe water options should be relatively inexpensive, under local control, and maintainable at the local level.
Click on arrow for a video of an example of research regarding arsenic poisoning in Bangladesh (2015). From the Earth Institute of Columbia University - a long term researcher on the aresenic problem in Bangladesh.
Medicine & Monitoring
Medical care is also essential for people already affected by arsenic poisoning. It is not enough to have promises of safe water for the future, treatment is needed to address current arsenic poisoning.
In addition, regular monitoring is advised for those who are regularly exposed to higher levels of arsenic, for arsenic related conditions including cancers, so they can be dealt with in an appropriate and timely manner.
In addition, at least in some cases, increasing consumption of protein and vitamin-rich food or vitamin supplements can help decrease arsenic’s toxic effects. As many of the poor are malnourished to a certain extent and not obtaining a diet higher in protein or vitamin rich foods, this can create a problem. Being poor, they cannot often afford such foods. Perhaps subsidizing the diet of the poor exposed to arsenic should be considered, especially in cases where it is not already being done by NGOs or the government.
Osman Ghani, 60 and his wife Rehana Begum, 50, both suffer from arsenic-related health conditions. They live in Balia village, in the Barisal District, south of Dhaka. A Human Rights Watch investigation found many villagers have little or no access to health care for such conditions. Photo: @2016 Atish Saha for Human Rights Watch. Use provided by Creative Commons License. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/legalcod
Although the government does need to play a key part in much of the above, at this point it does not appear that they have the capacity to sufficiently address the problem. Some believe that there is serious need for the international community to assist again to help mitigate the effects of high arsenic levels. Quick action is needed to keep the situation from escalating.
Read more regarding the arsenic situation at the following links: