Reawakening the global health problem of unclean, polluted drinking water, rural Asian villages have been plagued with arsenic-ridden water. Most of these rural villages are near mines which leak and pollute local water sources with the carcinogen arsenic. In the past decade, the Heshan village in China has seen nearly 20 percent of the population get cancer from the polluted water.

The arsenic has been traced back to runoff and residue from a local mine that was closed in 2011. The 190 living cancer patients have petitioned the local governments for monetary compensation and aid, but the $1,600 reimbursement is insufficient for even one round of chemotherapy or radiation. For many of these poor rural villagers, the cancer diagnosis from arsenic poisoning is nothing less than a death sentence because of the unaffordable cost of treatment.

Tests of the ground water have resulted in arsenic amounts 15 times the safe amount of arsenic. The water is so toxic that many of the agricultural staples are not viable in the region, stripping these people of their livelihood and reinforcing the cycle of poverty in the area.

Similar cases have been reported throughout China and India. With water security being of the utmost importance, cancer patterns have sprung up around villages with arsenic in the water. Local medical professionals have denied the correlation between the high arsenic levels and the cancer hotspots, despite the fact that arsenic has been recognized by many health institutions as a known carcinogen.

The lack of transparency between health officials and the villagers coupled with insufficient cleaning methods has resorted in the outbreaks of cancer caused by arsenic. The toxicity of the element, both for humans and agriculture, has stunted the regional economies and has restricted the employment pool. A needless tragedy, the arsenic-laden drinking waters have destroyed families and the economies of the rural villages afflicted by the toxic water.

– Kristin Ronzi

Sources: American Cancer Society, Reuters, Times of India
Photo: Trip Advisor