Clinical manifestations of arsenic toxicity and extent of groundwater contamination in gopalnagar village of murshidabad district

Manali Biswas., Debjani Mandal., Abhishek Basu., Bibhas Bhattacharyya., Indranil Saha., Gunjan Dhar and Shamsuzzaman Ahmed

The problem of arsenic toxicity in Murshidabad district of West Bengal is geogenic in origin. Hariharpara is one of the severely affected blocks of Murshidabad district, where one-third of the groundwater samples contain arsenic above 50 µg/L, which is the maximum recommended level of consumption in absence of alternate source of drinking water, proposed by World Health Organization (WHO). Potential health hazards faced by the residents of Hariharpara block include skin problems like warts, cones and hyperkeratosis. Thickening of arteries, myocardial infarction and cyanosis of toes and fingers are severe manifestations of arsenic toxicity. Consumption of arsenic contaminated drinking water over sustainable period of time could lead to neurological disorders, chronic hepatitis and cirrhosis of liver and cancers of lung, liver, kidney, bladder and intestine. Gopalnagar village of Hariharpara block was selected as the site of analysis of biochemical and clinical effects of arsenic toxicity. The soil and groundwater samples collected from this village were alkaline in nature and showed huge amount of bacterial load and total dissolved solids (TDS). These uncharacterized bacteria could be fecal coliforms and pathogenic in nature. Presence of these bacteria could lead to diseases like typhoid, cholera and bacterial gastroenteritis. Presence of iron and phosphate above the Bureau of Indian Standard (BIS) recommended level in soil and groundwater samples of Gopalnagar resulted in various health hazards in the residents of the village. High level of iron could lead to formation of complexes between iron and arsenic and result in diseases like cyanosis, liver or bowel cancer, joint pain etc., whereas, high level of phosphate could lead to diarrhea or constipation, osteoporosis and deposition of calcium phosphate in muscle and soft tissues. The clinical manifestations of arsenic toxicity were documented by surveying 50 families of Gopalnagar village. The manifestations among the residents range from mild symptoms like dark coloured rashes and black spot in extremities to moderate symptoms like hardened tissue of hand and feet, diarrhea etc. In extreme cases some people show bent fingers, respiratory problems, as cities and even death. Both male and female members are exposed to arsenic contaminated soil and water. Due to the economic and social backwardness of the villagers alternate sources of drinking water and proper medical facilities are unavailable to them.

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