There is an outburst of cancer in Bihar which is mostly due to high levels of arsenic in the ground water.
As per Scroll reports, the field studies in the state suggest that in the past 15 years arsenic concentrations in water have gone as high as up to 3,880 parts per billion.
As per the report, Arsenic has entered Bihar’s drinking water from the Himalayas, washed down in the form of arsenopyrite, a form of arsenic and iron and settled in riverbeds along the Gangetic plain as silt. When the rivers changed course, human settlements sprung up on the floodplains. People in such settlements in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Bangladesh, used river water for drinking and irrigation.
In 1970, when bacteria contamination in river water was spreading diseases, international health organisations advocated a shift to the use of groundwater pumped by borewells. However, Arsenopyrite, found between 60 feet and 200 feet underground, is stable as long as it is insulated from the air. Thus when underground water comes in contact with the air, arsenic and iron easily dissolves in the water, often used by locals for consumption, irrigation and feeding the cattle.
According to a study cited by scroll.in, not less than 80% of the village handpumps had arsenic-contaminated groundwater. Of the chapakals surveyed, 75% had arsenic levels above 100 parts per billion. Even handpumps in the village’s primary and middle schools had arsenic concentrations of 100 parts per billion. The children are seen having hard patches called hyperkeratosis on their palms and soles, a condition caused by arsenic.
The research further elaborated that Tilak Rai Ka Hatta, a village in Bihar’s Buxar district which is home to 5,348 people has over 28% of families suffering from skin-related problems. As many as 86% suffered from gastritis, 57% from liver-related problems, and 64% reported a loss of appetite. The team documented cases of male and female infertility, as well as six cancer cases – four people had died while two were still suffering.
Cancer Sansthan, a hospital in Bihar, got about 22,000 patients last year from just Bihar. Many of these patients suffer from cancers of the gall bladder or liver, both which are associated with arsenic toxicity. While the facilities in government hospitals are poor and private hospitals are way beyond the means of a middle-class man, the state of healthcare in Bihar is under serious questions. Despite the huge number of cancer patients pouring every month, the government hospitals are not only understaffed but also poorly equipped.
As the state government has barely any response to the problem, people continue to consume polluted water raw, throwing themselves open to incurable health disorders.