The association of high concentrations of arsenic in the groundwater of 18 districts of Bihar with incidence of gall bladder cancer in these districts is a matter of serious concern for the experts of the state.
Ashok Kumar Ghosh, chairman of the Bihar State Pollution Control Board, said on Friday that a recent study by experts found that 18 out of 38 districts have reported high levels of arsenic in groundwater. People in these districts are drinking water with arsenic concentration higher than the World Health Organisation’s acceptable limit of 10 micrograms per litre. The most affected districts are Buxar, Bhojpur and Bhagalpur.
The highest arsenic contamination in groundwater (1906 micrograms per litre) is in Buxar district, he said. Now studies have shown high concentration of arsenic as a possible risk factor for gallbladder cancer, Ghosh added.
It is imperative that public health intervention in the form of removal of arsenic from drinking water is the need of the hour even in endemic areas of Bihar and Assam. Tackling arsenic pollution can help reduce the burden of many health problems.
He said that the experts analyzed 46000 groundwater samples collected from different areas of 18 districts before arriving at the conclusion. The districts of Bihar severely affected by arsenic contamination include Buxar, Bhojpur, Bhagalpur, Saran, Vaishali, Patna, Samastipur, Khagaria, Begusarai, Munger etc. which are located close to the banks of river Ganga.
The latest study is also published in the American Association for Cancer Research’s Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention Journal on the association between arsenic in drinking water and gallbladder cancer.
This study examined the risk of gallbladder cancer exposure to arsenic in drinking water among participants with a residence duration of 15–70 years in two arsenic-affected states of India, Bihar and Assam, said Ghosh.
Ghosh, a member of the study team, said the study was carried out by Indian scientists at the Center for Environmental Health, Public Health Foundation of India, Center for Chronic Disease Control, Dr. Bhubaneswar Barua of Cancer Institute, Mahaveer Cancer Institute and Research Center, Indian Institute of Technology (Kharagpur). ) in collaboration with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in areas where gallbladder cancer and high levels of arsenic in drinking water are found.
Along with information about potential sources of drinking water, people’s long-term residential history since childhood is an important source of information for this study, he added. Dr. Kritiga Sridhar, lead author of the study, said that preliminary insights from this study may also be useful for similar country contexts that experience a burden of gallbladder cancer and high amounts of arsenic in drinking water. We do.
Dr. Poornima Prabhakaran from the Public Health Foundation of India highlighted how this study aligns with the Jal Jeevan Mission 2024 and the Sustainable Development Goals of equitable access to clean and safe drinking water.