Hooked on arsenic

An unprecedented crisis of drinking water contaminated by natural arsenic affects nearly 100 million people in West Bengal and Bangladesh. Experts dealing with the toxicity of arsenic now have a potentially even bigger problem: recent research shows that arsenic-polluted water is tastier than normal water, and is addictive. "It's a shame that we have taken so long to discover the addictive nature of arsenic," says environmental scientist Dipankar Chakraborty.

Groundwater in the affected districts of West Bengal and Bangladesh have 30 times more arsenic content than what is regarded safe. The problem is alarmingly worse in Bangladesh, where some 70 million people —more than half the country's population—are at risk from arsenic-contaminated water.

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Himal Southasian