As arsenic contamination has become one of India's major concerns, studies suggest that over 10 lakh people in India have died in the last 25 years because of the arsenic
Priya Brath Sharma, from Bihar's Munger district, has been bedridden for several years now. "I have stopped walking for many years as the lower body doesn't move. I also went to AIIMS for treatment some years back; they said that it was Arsenic-related disease," News18 quoted him as saying.
He lives near the Ganges and doctors have advised him not to drink water from the well or hand pump. "There are more than 100 people in my village, Khaira Basti, who are suffering from cancer and other ailments because of the contaminated water. Others have spots and pigments on the skin," 70-year-old Sharma said.
Studies have shown that approximately one crore people in India have been exposed to groundwater contaminated with the arsenic and at least 10 lakh people have shown clinical indications.
"Currently around 200 districts in the northern part of the country in the Gangetic plain, are at risk of drinking water contaminated by arsenic," the coordinator at the Inner Voice Foundation, a civil society group, that has worked on the issue said. The organisation said that around 10 lakh people have died in the last 25 years because of diseases caused by arsenic exposure.
Another study by Dr Ashok Ghosh, chairman of the Bihar State Pollution Control Board and head of Research at Mahavir Cancer Institute and Research Center in Patna suggests that "out of 28 states in India, reports of Arsenic contamination have emerged from 17 states."
Arsenic contamination was first reported in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh. Later, it was identified in the lower Ganga plain of West Bengal, Bangladesh, lower parts of Nepal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Assam.
Apart from groundwater, recent studies also suggest that the source of exposure to arsenic for Indians is also linked to food intake.
"We found in our study exposure determined by food, based on the intake of rice, wheat and potato were almost equal to that from drinking water. The highest contributor among the food was cooked rice," says Ashok Ghosh.
Rice has been detected with very high arsenic content which increases disease burden. Gosh said that the number of gallbladder cancer patients from arsenic hotspots was very high. His study showed links to many types of cancers like breast cancer, liver cancer, gallbladder cancer, thyroid cancer, colorectal cancer cases.