1. Home
  2. Asia
  3. Bangladesh

Millions of Bangladeshis poisoned by arsenic-laced water

Residents of Dhaka queue up for water. The city routinely suffers from severe water shortages in April and May

A fifth of all deaths in Bangladesh are linked to drinking water contaminated by arsenic, while up to 77 million people - half the population - have been chronically exposed to the poisonous metalloid, according to a new study published in the Lancet medical journal.

Researchers tracked 12,000 people over a period of 10 years, taking urine samples every two years and analysing water from 6,000 wells to detect arsenic, confirming what the World Health Organization warned of a decade ago when it predicted “a major increase in the number of cases of diseases caused by arsenic if the population continues to drink arsenic-contaminated water".

A decades-old programme of digging tube wells to reach what was thought to be clean drinking water is being cited as the cause of the mass poisoning, says the report.

Arsenic contamination of ground water is thought to affect 140 million people around the world, including in Thailand, China and the USA. “The need for a global response is apparent because the situation goes far beyond the Bangladesh borders,” said Columbia University’s Joseph Graziano, who led the team of researchers.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

Share this article
Join the discussion

It was The New Humanitarian’s investigation with the Thomson Reuters Foundation that uncovered sexual abuse by aid workers during the Ebola response in the Democratic Republic of Congo and led the World Health Organization to launch an independent review and reform its practices.

This demonstrates the important impact that our journalism can have. 

But this won’t be the last case of aid worker sex abuse. This also won’t be the last time the aid sector has to ask itself difficult questions about why justice for victims of sexual abuse and exploitation has been sorely lacking. 

We’re already working on our next investigation, but reporting like this takes months, sometimes years, and can’t be done alone.

The support of our readers and donors helps keep our journalism free and accessible for all. Donations mean we can keep holding power in the aid sector accountable, and shine a light on similar abuses. 

Become a member today and support independent journalism

Become a member of The New Humanitarian

Support our journalism and become more involved in our community. Help us deliver informative, accessible, independent journalism that you can trust and provides accountability to the millions of people affected by crises worldwide.