Arsenic contamination in food-chain: transfer of arsenic into food materials through groundwater irrigation

J Health Popul Nutr. 2006 Sep;24(3):305-16.


Arsenic contamination in groundwater in Bangladesh has become an additional concern vis-à-vis its use for irrigation purposes. Even if arsenic-safe drinking-water is assured, the question of irrigating soils with arsenic-laden groundwater will continue for years to come. Immediate attention should be given to assess the possibility of accumulating arsenic in soils through irrigation-water and its subsequent entry into the food-chain through various food crops and fodders. With this possibility in mind, arsenic content of 2,500 water, soil and vegetable samples from arsenic-affected and arsenic-unaffected areas were analyzed during 1999-2004. Other sources of foods and fodders were also analyzed. Irrigating a rice field with groundwater containing 0.55 mg/L of arsenic with a water requirement of 1,000 mm results in an estimated addition of 5.5 kg of arsenic per ha per annum. Concentration of arsenic as high as 80 mg per kg of soil was found in an area receiving arsenic-contaminated irrigation. A comparison of results from affected and unaffected areas revealed that some commonly-grown vegetables, which would usually be suitable as good sources of nourishment, accumulate substantially-elevated amounts of arsenic. For example, more than 150 mg/kg of arsenic has been found to be accumulated in arum (kochu) vegetable. Implications of arsenic ingested in vegetables and other food materials are discussed in the paper.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arsenic / analysis*
  • Arsenic / pharmacokinetics
  • Bangladesh
  • Biological Availability
  • Crops, Agricultural / chemistry*
  • Food Chain
  • Food Contamination / analysis*
  • Fresh Water / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Soil Pollutants / analysis*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis


  • Soil Pollutants
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Arsenic