Arsenic food

Published: Sunday 30 September 2001

people in West Bengal are highly susceptible to arsenic poisoning because of their food habits, states a report of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (unido). According to it, the chemical gets concentrated in the roots of vegetables that form a big part of Bengalis' diet. "Liquid pulses and potato curry were found to retain most of the arsenic even after cooking. Tea and milk were also found to have arsenic even after boiling," the report mentions. Using contaminated groundwater for irrigation has added to the problem, as it increases the arsenic levels of the soil and consequently of the plants. Dipankar Chakraborti, director of the School of Environmental Studies, Jadavpur University, Kolkata, agrees with the finding of the unido study but says that it is unable to give a complete picture of the problem. Meanwhile, an all-party delegation recently met Venkaiah Naidu, the Union minister for rural development, and urged him to sanction funds for combating the arsenic menace.

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