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Cancer spreading in Bihar due to arsenic in ground water: Experts


Patna: The high level of arsenic in the ground water is causing and spreading cancer on either side of the Ganga in Bihar, according to experts.

The most affected are the poorest of the poor. A K Ghosh, a Patna-based arsenic expert, said a large number of cases had been reported from the districts along the river.

“It’s a matter of serious concern,” Ghosh, professor at the department of environment and water management at AN college, Patna, told IANS. He has conducted several arsenic field surveys in the last ten years.

According to a 2014 study by Ghosh, 18 of the 38 districts of Bihar were affected by ground water arsenic. The worst affected districts were Bhojpur, Buxar, Vaishali, Bhagalpur and Samastipur.

Scientists at the Patna-based Mahavir Cancer Sansthan (MCS) said in their latest research study that arsenic had been found in tissues of patients suffering from cancer. The source of the offending chemical element was drinking water, they stated.

The scientists concluded that the probability of two types of cancer (skin and gall bladder) was due to ingestion of drinking water in which arsenic presence was more than 300 parts per billion (ppb).

Their research also said arsenic increases the possibility of DNA damage. The MCS study was based on 200 cancer patients from Bhojpur, Vaishali and Buxar.

The study, headed by Dr Arun Kumar observed that arsenic might not be the single factor in causing cancer, but its effect gets multiplied when combined with other carcinogens.

According to an official report by the state health department, around 75,000 new cancer cases are detected annually in Bihar.

Of these, the highest number of cases is reported from districts affected by arsenic.

Ghosh said that several patients often moved out of Bihar for treatment, making it difficult to identify the exact number of cases in the state.

A cancer specialist, Dr A J K Singh said arsenic poisoning was one of the main factors for cancer of prostate, liver, and gall bladder in the state, adding that the poorest were hit hard by it.

Singh said the government should join hands with different organizations to get rid of arsenic from drinking water.

Water samples collected at random from 44,000 tubewells by officials in affected districts found that arsenic concentration was above the World Health Organisation’s permissible limit of 10 ppb in most of them. The Indian government’s guidelines peg the permissible limit at 50 ppb.

The highest level of concentration was found in Bhojpur at 1,861 ppb, followed by Buxar at 1,230 ppb and Bhagalpur at 915 ppb. Even Patna district had a very high incidence of 760 ppb.

Last year, a state government report, based on a survey of water samples collected from 19,961 tubewells in 398 villages, found that arsenic concentration was above 10 ppb in 310 villages and above 50 ppb in 235 villages.

Bihar’s Minister for Public Health Department Krishnanandan Prasad Verma told the state Assembly last week that 13 districts in the Gangetic plain had more arsenic content than the permissible limit of 50 ppb.

Experts say a large number of hand pumps in Bihar need to be painted red – warning against use – and sealed.

Arsenic was also finding its way into agricultural products like rice, tomato, maize, wheat and spinach. Often, over-extraction of water through hand pumps worsened the situation by raising the concentration levels.

The source of arsenic, according to experts, was stationed from the Himalayas which gets deposited downstream through the Ganga. In its natural form of arsenopyrite (iron arsenic sulfide), it is insoluble in water.

Arsenic, an odorless and tasteless semi-metal element, occurs naturally in the environment and is sometimes deposited as a by-product of agriculture processing and industrial use. (IANS)

Next Story

Research Yields Possible Blood Test for Cancer

The test was most successful with ovarian cancer, followed by liver, stomach, pancreatic, esophageal, colorectal, lung and breast cancers.

Scientists have found a way of detecting cancer through blood tests. IANS
Scientists have found a way of detecting cancer through blood tests. IANS
  • Scientists have developed a blood test which can detect cancer
  • This blood test can detect eight types of cancer
  • They have developed a way of detecting DNA which comes specifically from cancer

Scientists at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) are reporting progress in developing a blood test to detect eight types of cancer at an early stage, including some of the most deadly ones that are difficult to detect with existing screening tools.

In a study published Thursday in the journal Science, JHU scientists examined how well their experimental test detected cancer in people already diagnosed with the disease.

Also Read : How broccoli can help keep colorectal cancer away 

This blood test can detect 8 types of cancers. Pixabay
This blood test can detect 8 types of cancers. Pixabay

In blood samples from more than 1,000 patients already diagnosed with cancer, the test detected the cancer in about 70 percent of the subjects.

Nikolas Papadopoulos, a professor of oncology and pathology at Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center, said the test is noninvasive.

“All [patients] have to do is give a little bit of blood,” he told VOA. “What we detect is DNA, which is the genetic material that is present in all of our cells, but we have developed a method to detect DNA that comes only from the cancer cells.”

Scientists have been focused on liquid biopsy tests which look for mutated DNA that floats freely in the blood and in cancer-related proteins to try to find cancer before it spreads. They focused on cancers for which there is little or no early-screening process — the ones that are often serious enough to be deadly by the time they are detected.

“That’s one of the tricks that cancer plays on us,” Papadopoulos said. “It grows inside of us and we feel fine until we start having something like a pain or a cough or something like that. And many times, it’s too late.”

Also Read : Alcohol can be linked with seven types of Cancer

This test detects DNA which is specifically formed due to cancer.
This test detects DNA which is specifically formed due to cancer.

The test was most successful with ovarian cancer, followed by liver, stomach, pancreatic, esophageal, colorectal, lung and breast cancers.

“This study that’s just published, it’s the first step,” Papadopoulos said.

He said a larger study is under way, with a pool of thousands of people. Unlike the earlier study, which dealt solely with patients already known to have cancer, the new group makes up a more representative sample of the general population — that is, most do not have cancer, at least not that has been diagnosed.

“The new study is different in that it simulates what is going to be the population that this test will be applied to,” he said. “And hopefully, we will get good results.” VOA