Evaluation of Chronic Arsenic Poisoning Due to Consumption of Contaminated Ground Water in West Bengal, India

Asutosh Ghosh


Background: Chronic arsenic poisoning is an important public health problem and most notable in West Bengal and Bangladesh. In this study different systemic manifestations in chronic arsenic poisoning were evaluated.

Methods: A nonrandomized, controlled, cross‑sectional, observational study was carried out in Arsenic Clinic, Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research, Kolkata, West Bengal, over a period of 1 year 4 months. Seventy‑three cases diagnosed clinically, consuming water containing arsenic ≥50 mg/L and having hair and nail arsenic level >0.6 mg/L, were included. Special investigations included routine parameters and organ‑specific tests. Arsenic levels in the drinking water, hair, and nail were measured in all. Twenty‑five nonsmoker healthy controls were evaluated.

Results: Murshidabad and districts adjacent to Kolkata, West Bengal, were mostly affected. Middle‑aged males were the common sufferers. Skin involvement was the commonest manifestation (100%), followed by hepatomegaly [23 (31.5%)] with or without transaminitis [7 (9.58%)]/ portal hypertension [9 (12.33%)]. Restrictive abnormality in spirometry [11 (15.06%)], bronchiectasis [4 (5.47%)], interstitial fibrosis [2 (2.73%)], bronchogenic carcinoma [2 (2.73%)], oromucosal plaque [7 (9.58%)], nail hypertrophy [10 (13.69%)], alopecia [8 (10.95%)], neuropathy [5 (6.84%)], and Electrocardiography abnormalities [5 (6.84%)] were also observed.

Conclusions: Mucocutaneous and nail lesions, hepatomegaly, and restrictive change in spirometry were the common and significant findings. Other manifestations were characteristic but insignificant.

Key words: Arsenic poisoning, ground water, India, West Bengal

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