Water Sanitation Health

United Nations Synthesis Report on Arsenic in Drinking Water

Developed on behalf of the United Nations Administrative Committee on Cooperation Sub-Committee on Water Resources, with active participation of UNICEF, UNIDO, IAEA and the World Bank.

An expert synthesis report on arsenic in drinking-water has been prepared as UN system-wide initiative and has been released in draft form for comment.

Arsenic is a natural part of the earth's crust in some parts of the globe and may be found in water, which has flowed through arsenic-rich rocks. Drinking arsenic-rich water over a long period is unsafe and in some countries around the world the health effects are well known. However, delayed effects from arsenic poisoning, the lack of common definitions and poor reporting and local awareness in affected areas are major problems in determining the extent of the arsenic-in-drinking-water problem and developing adequate solutions.

In response to the crisis caused by arsenic in drinking water in Bangladesh and West Bengal, WHO has lead a UN system-wide* initiative to produce a synthesis report on arsenic in drinking water. The synthesis report has been developed on best available evidence and scientific resources through series of meetings and with participation of leading experts.

This synthesis report is expected to be a valuable contribution to the current "state-of-the-art" concerning water quality monitoring (laboratory and field testing techniques), health effects, diagnosis and the treatment of patients as well as appropriate water treatment technologies. It is expected that planners, government officials and other stakeholders at the national and regional levels to promote necessary action will also use the report as a primer on arsenic. At the same time, the report will identify current knowledge gaps and research needs. The report consists of eight chapters listed below. This report, in draft form, is being made available for review and comment until the end of 2001. Comments regarding this draft are welcome and should be addressed to the secretariat at the address given below. In this regard, the document may not be quoted, reproduced or translated, in part or in whole, without the prior written permission of the secretariat. The views expressed in documents by named authors are solely the responsibility of those authors. Finalization and publication of the report will be undertaken immediately following final review.

The preparation of this synthesis report (draft) was made possible by the financial support afforded by World Health Organization supported by the extrabudgetary contribution of the Government of Japan, United Nations Children’s Fund, which are gratefully acknowledged. Appreciation is also extended to the lead agencies, writers, and key contributors, whose names appear on the top page of each chapter, acknowledgement, etc.

This report is available in pdf format as per links below.

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