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Water Contaminated By Arsenic

Mon., Jan. 6, 1997, midnight

In a campaign to provide safe drinking water nationwide, Bangladesh has drilled more than one million wells in the last 20 years, tapping into water untainted by bacteria and waterborne diseases.

But instead of clean water, the wells are pumping up poison. At least 30 people have died and nearly 1,000 have fallen ill from arsenic-contaminated well water in recent years, say doctors and Health Ministry officials.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg. The contamination of the country’s water by arsenic must be considered as the most dreaded environmental health hazard,” said Mujibul Hoque of Dhaka Medical College.

One of the first responses has been to seal off contaminated wells - up to 1,000 in the affected areas - and advise residents to boil surface water for drinking.

Experts believe industrial pollution and excessive use of ground water are responsible for the increasing occurrence of arsenic poisoning.

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