Arsenic in soil and irrigation water affects arsenic uptake by rice: complementary insights from field and pot studies

Environ Sci Technol. 2010 Dec 1;44(23):8842-8. doi: 10.1021/es101962d. Epub 2010 Nov 2.


Groundwater rich in arsenic (As) is extensively used for dry season boro rice cultivation in Bangladesh, leading to long-term As accumulation in soils. This may result in increasing levels of As in rice straw and grain, and eventually, in decreasing rice yields due to As phytotoxicity. In this study, we investigated the As contents of rice straw and grain over three consecutive harvest seasons (2005-2007) in a paddy field in Munshiganj, Bangladesh, which exhibits a documented gradient in soil As caused by annual irrigation with As-rich groundwater since the early 1990s. The field data revealed that straw and grain As concentrations were elevated in the field and highest near the irrigation water inlet, where As concentrations in both soil and irrigation water were highest. Additionally, a pot experiment with soils and rice seeds from the field site was carried out in which soil and irrigation water As were varied in a full factorial design. The results suggested that both soil As accumulated in previous years and As freshly introduced with irrigation water influence As uptake during rice growth. At similar soil As contents, plants grown in pots exhibited similar grain and straw As contents as plants grown in the field. This suggested that the results from pot experiments performed at higher soil As levels can be used to assess the effect of continuing soil As accumulation on As content and yield of rice. On the basis of a recently published scenario of long-term As accumulation at the study site, we estimate that, under unchanged irrigation practice, average grain As concentrations will increase from currently ∼0.15 mg As kg(-1) to 0.25-0.58 mg As kg(-1) by the year 2050. This translates to a 1.5-3.8 times higher As intake by the local population via rice, possibly exceeding the provisional tolerable As intake value defined by FAO/WHO.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agricultural Irrigation*
  • Arsenic / analysis
  • Arsenic / metabolism*
  • Arsenic / toxicity
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Food Contamination
  • Oryza / drug effects
  • Oryza / growth & development
  • Oryza / metabolism*
  • Soil Pollutants / analysis
  • Soil Pollutants / metabolism*
  • Soil Pollutants / toxicity
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / metabolism
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity


  • Soil Pollutants
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Arsenic