Persistent exposure to arsenic via drinking water in rural Bangladesh despite major mitigation efforts

  • Gardner R
  • Hamadani J
  • Grandér M
 et al. 
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Abstract

OBJECTIVES: Elevated arsenic levels in tube-well water in Bangladesh have prompted extensive mitigation projects. We evaluated the effectiveness of long-term mitigation efforts by longitudinally measuring arsenic exposure in pregnant women and their children, the most susceptible population groups. METHODS: The study was nested in a population-based nutrition intervention in Matlab, Bangladesh. Mother-child pairs (n = 1951) were followed from 2001 to 2003, beginning in early gestation and continuing to 5 years postpartum. We measured arsenic concentrations in urine (U-As) of the 5-year-old children by using high-performance liquid chromatography online with hydride generation and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry and compared them with earlier childhood U-As and maternal U-As during pregnancy. RESULTS: Children had elevated U-As at 5 years old (median = 51 mug/L, 5th-95th percentiles = 16-355 mug/L), and U-As distribution was similar to that observed in the mothers during gestation. Children's U-As at 5 years old significantly correlated with their U-As at 1.5 years old and to maternal U-As during early and late gestation. CONCLUSIONS: Despite major mitigation efforts, arsenic exposure remains highly elevated in rural Bangladesh. Further mitigation strategies are required and must be rigorously evaluated for long-term efficacy.

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