Thursday, November 17, 2005

Hellish water

Update: Chemists Without Borders have started a similar discussion.

When the first tube-wells were sunk in villages on the Indian sub-continent during the 1960s, purportedly to offer the first reliable, year-round water supply there, the people were incredibly wary, describing the water as the "Water from Hell". In subsequent years, it has emerged that there was indeed some foundation to their suspicions as the insidious effects of arsenic poisoning have taken hold of hundreds of thousands in this area of the world as once insoluble arsenic salts in the bedrock have oxidised to soluble forms that then enter the water supply. You can read more about the arsenic problem on my personal site.

There are numerous problems associated with the arsenic problem many of which have a chemical solution. First, is providing villages with a safe and easy way to test their water supply. At the moment, many tubewells are mislabelled as uncontaminated when they're not, and many have been given the green flag even though they contain solubilised arsenic. Secondly, a simple way to extract the arsenic from contaminated water is needed.

Researchers such as Dipankar Chakraborti of Jadavpur University and his colleagues have been fighting for recognition of this insidious environmental problem that has already affected hundreds of thousands of people. They are working on assays and clean-up, but there is still a need for novel thinking to tackle the hellish water.

David Bradley CChem MRSC [No relation]


At 9:43 AM, Blogger Jean-Claude Bradley said...

Here is a study of the way arsenic enters well waters

At 1:21 PM, Blogger Jean-Claude Bradley said...

We really have not done much with arsenic on UsefulChem except to point out that this is a serious problem that needs to be fixed with a chemical solution. I would suggest looking at the Chemists Without Borders link at the top of this post and reading some of the recent posts on arsenic. Some of the people there may be able to answer many of your questions. Concerning our use of open source/open notebook science (which we use mainly for our malaria work), yes we plan on continuing to work that way and hope that more scientists will see the benefits. Also see this interview.


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