Water is the elixir of life, a symbol of vitality and one of the most prominent treasure houses for living organisms. But the same water is contaminated in many ways making us unsuitable to drink. Arsenic poisoning is one of such water contaminations in West Bengal which kills thousands of people every year.
Arsenic, ‘the king of all poisons’ with its menacing presence in drinking water causes an incurable disease called ’arsenicosis’. Today millions of people in countries like China, Taiwan, Chile, Argentina, Mexico, Thailand, Bangladesh and India are victims of arsenicosis. Arsenic content in drinking water has devastated the lives of many. Lack of proper awareness regarding the cause and nature of arsenicosis very often makes the people consider it as leprosy. Sometimes it is even believed to be a curse of God.
In India, West Bengal (WB) tops in arsenic toxicity in the water and it’s history goes back to almost 25 years since its first detection of an arsenic patient by a dermatologist named K.C. Saha in 1983.
The cause of arsenic contamination is believed to be geological. The exact mechanism of leaching of arsenic into the groundwater and the form in which it is present in the water is not clear. The oxidation of arsenic-rich pyrite in aquifer sediments has been proposed as one possible mechanism. Arsenic, ‘the king of all poisons,’ when present in the water we drink, causes an incurable disease called ’arsenicosis’.
The initial symptoms of arsenic poisoning are usually observed in the skin. Skin lesions like keratosis and hyper-pigmentation, are two hallmark signs of chronic arsenic toxicity. Advanced forms of skin lesions lead to disfigurement of body like leprosy. Various other effects include chronic bronchitis, cirrhosis of the liver, peripheral neuropathy, CNS disturbances, and cancer of the liver, lungs, bladder, stomach, kidney, prostate, and skin.
It is a Herculean task to educate people to expunge the myth attached to arsenic poisoning. People believe that they get arsenic poisoning because of their past sins (Karma) and God is to be blamed for their present fate. Arsenic poisoning in drinking water has made many hapless people crippled, orphaned many innocent children, shattered many youngsters dreams of employment and has ostracized young couples from their communities. “For a human person, ‘human dignity’ is an important aspect for social interaction and this is what arsenic victims have lost in this disease” says Xavier an Environmental Scientist who works for the arsenic affected victims.Richnutritiousfood intake is the only solution to prevent arsenic. There is no precise medical treatment for this deadly disease.