Arsenic Contamination of Food Chain
Part of: Prelims and GS- II – Health and GS III – Environmental pollution
Context A recent study in Bihar has found Arsenic contamination not only in groundwater but in the food chain as well.
- The research study was a part of the Project Nature and Nurture in Arsenic Induced Toxicity of Bihar jointly funded by the British Council in the United Kingdom and Department of Science and Technology in India.
- Arsenic has found its way into the food chain – mainly rice, wheat and potato.
- Arsenic is present in the groundwater as it is used on a large scale for irrigation by farmers. That is how it finds its way into the food chain as well.
- The food had more arsenic content than drinking water, even when arsenic levels in drinking water was above the World Health Organization (WHO) provisional guide value of 10 micrograms per litre (μg/L).
What is Arsenic?
- Arsenic is an odourless and tasteless metalloid widely distributed in the earth’s crust.
- It is naturally present at high levels in the earth crust and groundwater of a number of countries. It is highly toxic in its inorganic form.
- Arsenicosis is the medical word for arsenic poisoning, which occurs due to accumulation of large amounts of arsenic in the body.
- Long-term exposure to arsenic from drinking-water and food can cause cancer and skin lesions. It has also been associated with cardiovascular disease and diabetes.