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ONE SOLUTION TO THE ARSENIC PROBLEM



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ONE SOLUTION TO THE ARSENIC PROBLEM A RETURN TO SURFACE IMPROVED DUG WELLS Sakila Afroz Joya Bivash Chandra Barmon Ariful Islam Golam Mostofa Altab Elahi Jabed Yousuf Golam Mahiuddin Mahmuder Rahman Quazi Quamruzzaman Dhaka Community Hospital Richard Wilson Department of Physics Harvard University A brief history of Worldwide Arsenic Use Arsenic has been used since 3000 BC 1 In the United Kingdom for example it was used to extract iron from iron ore It has long been known that arsenic is acutely toxic Anyone who drinks arsenic in water at 60 parts per million ppm will soon die Miners took particular precautions to avoid exposure Arsenic was also used for criminal purposes to poison a rival and may for example have been used to poison Napoleon in his exile However chemicals and substances are often only dangerous at high doses Indeed at lower doses beneficial effects can often occur Arsenic has been used for about 2 centuries for medicinal purposes At fairly high doses it was successfully used as a cure for syphilis before antibiotics entered the pharmacopoeia 70 years ago Arsenic in moderately high doses repeated over a month has been shown to assist in curing some leukemia 2 In a 1 solution of arsenite3 it was introduced in 1785 by Dr Fowler of Edinburgh UK and was an imitation of a popular remedy known as Tasteless Ague and Fever Drops It was used as a mild tonic for digestive disorders That arsenic at low levels is safe seemed to be reinforced by animal studies that seemed to show that arsenic is beneficial to animals at low doses Indeed the fact that laboratory animals mice rats cats and dogs could not be persuaded to develop cancer misled toxicologists throughout the world and greatly contributed to the present catastrophe in Bangldesh One of the present autors RW contributed to this misunderstanding by arguing that the observed carcinogencity of arsenic was probeably due to inhlation exposure 4 Others have written about other possible beneficial effects at



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