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A boy filling water jugs on the outskirts of the capital of Pakistan
A boy filling water jugs on the outskirts of the capital of Pakistan
Lakshmi Supriya

BENGALURU — In vintage crime novels, there is often someone murdered by slow poisoning, and arsenic has been a common weapon of choice. It works the same way in your body — slowly killing you — if it is present in the water you drink beyond a certain threshold. This is why it's disturbing that, according to a new study, the groundwater along the densely populated Indus river basin in Pakistan is severely contaminated with arsenic, putting the health of over 50 million people at risk.

Arsenic occurs naturally in Earth's crust. It is used by humans in some alloys in car batteries and semiconductors, as well as to make some pesticides and herbicides. Certain inorganic compounds that contain arsenic are highly toxic. Exposure in small doses causes headaches, dizziness, diarrhea and changes in skin coloration. When the poisoning becomes acute, convulsions, vomiting and muscle cramps can be caused. Prolonged exposure to arsenic affects various organs — including the lungs, skin and the kidneys — leading to various types of cancers and ultimately death. Arsenic in the soil accumulates in plants, especially in leafy vegetables and apples, and may inhibit plant growth. However, it is at its deadliest to humans when it pollutes groundwater used for drinking or irrigation. It has been estimated that about 200 million people worldwide use such arsenic-contaminated water.

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Lisa Berdet, Lila Paulou, Anne-Sophie Goninet and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Sveiki!*

Welcome to Thursday, where more Ukrainian soldiers surrender in Mariupol, Sri Lanka defaults on its debt,and George W. Bush offers an epic geopolitical gaffe. Meanwhile, Lili Bai in Chinese-language digital media The Initium looks at what’s driving the current “expat exodus” at play in Shanghai.

[*Latvian]

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