West Bengal government’s rice research centre has come up with a new variety of rice called Muktoshri that can be grown in arsenic prone areas. It was developed jointly by the Rice Research Station at Chinsurah, coming under West Bengal’s Agriculture Department and the National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow.
West Bengal has a high concentration of arsenic in groundwater, with 83 blocks across seven districts having higher arsenic levels than permissible limits.
Arsenic- Key facts:
Arsenic is naturally present at high levels in the groundwater of a number of countries. It is also present in rocks and soils.
Arsenic is highly toxic in its inorganic form.
World Health Organization’s provisional guideline value for arsenic in drinking water is 0.01 mg/l (10 μg/l). The permissible limit of arsenic in India in the absence of an alternative source is 0.05 mg/l (50 μg/l).
- Contaminated water used for drinking, food preparation and irrigation of food crops poses the greatest threat to public health from arsenic.
- Long-term exposure to arsenic from drinking-water and food can cause cancer and skin lesions.
- It has also been associated with cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
- In utero and early childhood exposure has been linked to negative impacts on cognitive development and increased deaths in young adults.
What’s the difference between organic arsenic and inorganic arsenic?
Atoms of arsenic bond with other elements to form molecules — if carbon is one of these elements, then the arsenic compound is an organic compound. If there is no carbon present, then the arsenic compound is in an inorganic compound.
Inorganic arsenic is a known human carcinogen — it is this form of arsenic that is linked with increased risks of cancer and other health effects.