31 No. 4
Arsenic Pollution and Remediation: An International Perspective
Hemda Garelick and Huw Jones (editors)
Reviews of Environmental Contamination
Volume 197, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-387-79283-5 (print)
Exposure to arsenic-contaminated drinking water is a major threat to human health. Millions of people across the world are exposed to arsenic-contaminated drinking water with concentrations far in excess of the 10 µg/L maximum permissible level established by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Analytical and Risk Considerations
for Emerging Environmental Issues
Tuesday, 4 August 2009
42nd IUPAC Congress, Glasgow, Scotland, UK
The major arsenic exposure pathway is believed to be via natural (geological) sources of contaminated groundwater. In addition, arsenic is introduced into the environment from anthropogenic sources, primarily metal mining and smelting activities, which pollute soils, sediments, and surface waters and groundwater worldwide. The implications for human health of arsenic exposure are serious, but they are not fully understood nor are solutions for mitigation adequately evaluated or communicated.
The purpose of the six papers comprising this volume is to address this knowledge gap. These papers result from a project supported by IUPAC.* They are consonant with and underpin the key IUPAC objectives of advancing the chemical sciences and the application of chemistry in service to mankind. IUPAC, in its role as an objective scientific, international, and nongovernmental body, in collaboration with international governmental bodies (e.g., United Nations Educational, Scientiﬁc and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the WHO), addresses many global issues involving the chemical sciences as well as issues that transcend pure science and have important sociopolitical implications. Arsenic contamination clearly has such implications.
The papers presented in this volume aim to review and analyze the status of arsenic pollution and consequential human exposure and to provide a practical guide to available arsenic remediation technologies. Moreover, we endeavor to advise on tools that support informed decision making when choosing avenues for arsenic mitigation. Such decision making cannot be solely concerned with arsenic treatment technologies, and the papers therefore seek to highlight and provide guidance on arsenic treatment technologies in the context of varying scenarios that can inform effective mitigation policies.
The authors of these papers have a diversity of knowledge, research experience, and interests, all of which contributed to assembly of this volume. The team’s expertise in epidemiology (Harry Caussey); risk assessment and toxicology (Nick Priest); environmental chemistry (Hemda Garelick, Huw Jones, and Zoltán Galbács); environmental geochemistry (Eugena Valsami-Jones and Agnieska Dybowska); analytical chemistry (Joerg Feldmann); bioremediation (Pornsawan Visoottiviseth); environmental engineering (Feroze Ahmed, Rita Földényi, Nora Kováts, and Gábor Borbély); and environmental management (Bryan Ellis, Hemda Garelick, and Md. Khoda Bux) was critical in analyzing effects of and solutions to arsenic water pollution on exposed populations.
Key points addressed by each successive paper are these:
- The health risks of arsenic contamination, with reference to the technical challenges associated with optimizing arsenic remediation approaches that are acceptable to arsenic-polluted communities, are described in this paper.
- An overview is given in this paper of the global status of arsenic pollution sources, both natural and anthropogenic, and the behavior of arsenic in groundwater and surface waters. Information is provided on modes of formation and release of arsenic and the corresponding implications to environmental mobility and toxicity of different arsenic chemical species.
- In this paper, the effects of high spatial and temporal variation of arsenic contamination and the consequential need for cheap, quick, onsite (field kits) analytical techniques that accurately portray the degree and nature of contamination so critical to remediation efforts.
- A variety of potential remediation technologies for arsenic removal are described in this paper. To be effective, particularly in developing countries with the greatest arsenic contamination, such methods must be reliable, cost-effective, and sustainable.
- The range of mitigation options available for arsenic reﬂects the complexity of its chemistry. Appraising suitable arsenic remediation technologies is itself a sizable challenge. This paper addresses, through multi-criteria approaches, the factors relevant to evaluating mitigation options.
- The ﬁnal paper of the series shares the challenges faced by three countries with arsenic-contaminated regions in addressing and remediating sources of arsenic contamination.
‘‘Access to safe water is a fundamental human need and, therefore, a basic human right. Contaminated water jeopardizes both the physical and social health of all people. It is an affront to human dignity. Yet even today, clean water is a luxury that remains out of the reach of many.’’ These words, spoken by Koﬁ Annan, then secretary general of the United Nations, on World Water Day, 22 March 2001, sadly remain equally relevant in 2007.
*Project 2003-017-2-600; see also July-Aug 2008 CI, pp. 7–12.
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