Published Date: 2008-10-08 23:05:34
Subject: PRO/MBDS> Arsenic poisoning, water - China: Guangxi, RFI
Archive Number: 20081008.3195
ARSENIC POISONING, WATER - CHINA: GUANGXI, REQUEST FOR INFORMATION
A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases
Date: Wed 8 Oct 2008
Source: China View, Xinhua News Agency report [edited]
Arsenic-sickened villagers out of danger in [Southern] China
A local government official said on Wednesday [8 Oct 2008] that 136
villagers were in stable condition after drinking water contaminated
by arsenic in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
"All those sickened are in stable condition," said Wei Kaizhong,
health bureau director of Hechi City. "Residents in the affected
villages have now access to safe drinking water."
The city government is expanding the search for other possible victims.
Residents of 2 villages in Hechi began to show symptoms of swelling
to the face and eyes, vomiting, and blurred eyesight on Friday [3 Oct
2008]. Medical tests found excessive amounts of arsenic in 136
people's urine samples, said Ge Xianmin, head of Guangxi regional
occupational disease prevention and control institute.
"The villagers were slightly poisoned. They can be cured in 9 to 15
days under timely treatment," Ge said.
Environmental monitoring measures indicated the water source of the
villagers was polluted by industrial waste from a nearby metallurgy enterprise.
The city authorities said Typhoon Hagupit triggered torrential rain
on [25 Sep 2008]. The wastewater containing arsenic [overflowed] from
the unnamed firm and polluted nearby ponds and underground water.
Investigation into the poisoning is still underway.
[In the newswire above, the wastewater polluted by the metallurgical
industry has been reported as the etiological source of this outbreak
of arsenic poisoning in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
During September 2008, a warning was issued regarding the widespread
use of drilled well water in Viet Nam as it threatened to expose an
increasing number of people to arsenic (see prior PRO/MBDS posting
Arsenic poisoning, well water - Viet Nam 20080920.2962). A very high
level of arsenic was detected in a lake from Yunnan province of China
as well (see prior PRO/MBDS posting Arsenic poisoning, lake - China:
Yunnan, RFI 20080920.2955) and an alert was issued to the surrounding
communities not to use the water.
The largest incidence of poisoning associated with high
concentrations of arsenic in the ground water and aquifers tapped by
tube wells was identified in Bangladesh in the past decade. During
the 1980s and 1990s, a large international effort to provide safe
drinking water to the rural population of Bangladesh resulted in the
installation of tube wells to a depth of 60 meters. While this water
was tested and found to be microbial free (for waterborne microbes),
testing of the water for arsenic levels had not been routinely done.
Millions of people were exposed to toxic levels of arsenic, and signs
of chronic arsenic poisoning occurred at massive levels. "According
to a British Geological Survey study in 1998 on shallow tube-wells in
61 of the 64 districts in Bangladesh, 46 percent of the samples were
above 0.010 mg/L and 27 percent were above 0.050 mg/L. When combined
with the estimated 1999 population, it was estimated that the number
of people exposed to arsenic concentrations above 0.05 mg/l is 28-35
million and the number of those exposed to more than 0.01 mg/l is
46-57 million (BGS, 2000). " (taken from the WHO website for Arsenic
in drinking water <http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs210/en/>).
For a good background discussion on the health effects of arsenic
exposure, see Chapter 3 in the UN Systems synthesis report on arsenic
in drinking water available at:
Chronic arsenic poisoning, as seen in Bangladesh where there was
long-term exposure through drinking water, usually begins with skin
changes - pigmentation changes changes and thickening
(hyperkeratosis). Longterm effects of chronic exposure relate to
carcinogenisis, with increased incidence of lung and bladder cancer,
and have been observed at drinking-water arsenic concentrations of
less than 0.05 mg/L.
In contrast, immediate symptoms seen with an acute poisoning
typically include vomiting, oesophageal and abdominal pain, and
bloody "rice water" diarrhoea -- more suggestive of the symptoms
described in the above newswire.
More background information on the effects of arsenic in drinking
water is available on the World Health Organization (WHO) website on
the topic, which can be accessed at:
PRO/MBDS would greatly appreciate more information from knowledgeable
sources on the investigations into the arsenic contamination of water
in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
For a map of China with provinces, see
Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region is located in the southern part of
China and is bordered by Yunnan to the west, Guizhou to the north,
Hunan to the northeast, and Guangdong to the southeast. It is also
bordered by Viet Nam in the southwest and the Gulf of Tonkin in the
south. - Mods.YMA/MPP]