Letter: Arsenic in the water
Wednesday 16 September 1998
Sir: The report "Arsenic-tainted water from Unicef wells is poisoning half of Bangladesh" (5 September) sensationalised a serious public health problem.
Unicef, together with the government of Bangladesh, the World Bank and other international donor agencies, is tackling the problem head-on. We are providing funding and technical help to test tubewells and to promote alternatives such as rainwater harvesting and low-cost filtration systems that remove arsenic and other contaminants.
To combat cholera, the government of Bangladesh, with support from Unicef and other donors, started sinking tubewells over 25 years ago as an alternative to pond and river water which was often heavily contaminated by faecal bacteria. These tubewells, along with an increase in sanitation and the promotion of oral rehydration therapy, have contributed to saving lives. In 1990, more than a quarter of a million children under the age of five died as a result of diarrhoea, the biggest child-killer in Bangladesh. By 1996, that number had fallen to 110,000.
We challenge the statement that "half of Bangladesh" is drinking from tubewells tainted with arsenic. To date, one fifth of the 19,000 tubewells tested by the government with Unicef's support have been found to be unsafe. However, until a significant proportion of tubewells from all parts of the country have been tested it will remain unclear how many people are at risk of arsenic contamination.
UK Committee for Unicef
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
New era of cheap oil 'will destroy green revolution'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits record low as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Ukip founder Alan Sked and Nigel Farage 'begged Enoch Powell to stand as a candidate'