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
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 I've been called an abusive and dangerous parent, when all I did was listen to my transgender child
- 2 Why this father didn’t hide his daughter’s heroin overdose in her obituary
- 3 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 4 Teaching profession headed for crisis as numbers continue to drop and working lives become 'unbearable'
- 5 The most powerful passports in the world
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins
Al Pacino admits he was nearly fired from The Godfather and it's still his most 'difficult role'
Warner Music owner Len Blavatnik tops Sunday Times Rich List
London Marathon: Best running songs from Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar to 'Uptown Funk'
Oldest footage of London landmarks released
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove