Scientists from Bihar and the United Kingdom (UK) will undertake collaborative research to investigate whether varying food habits have any relation with the impact of arsenic poisoning.
While symptoms and impact of arsenic poisoning are more prominent in Bengal, having lower quantity of arsenic, the maximum being around 1600 part per billion (ppb) in its groundwater, the number of afflicted are lower in Bihar with the maximum detected concentration of 1918 ppb in Buxar. The permissible limit of arsenic in ground water is 10 ppb.
With people of these neighbouring states being genetically similar, researchers believe that dissimilar impact could be due to variations in food habits and the nutrients regularly taken by them, that either aggravate or suppress the toxic impact of chemicals finding their way to the human body through drinking water or the food chain.
The department of science and technology (DST), government of India in collaboration with the UK-India Education and Research Institute (UKIERI) has sanctioned the mega research project with Salford University, UK and AN College, Patna, besides Mahavir Cancer Sansthan (MCS) as collaborative partners. The research, which would begin in April, would cost Rs 1.07 crore.
Head of the research department of MCS Dr Ashok Kumar Ghosh, said the MCS lab with specialised gadgets like atomic absorption spectrometer would carry out all investigations to detect nutritional factors acting as aggravators or suppressers of arsenic poisoning that has been a big concern to both the states.
While scientists have found 18 districts of Bihar affected with ground water contamination, only eight districts of Bengal has arsenic problem, he said.
Previous investigations have revealed that the people of the affected districts of Bengal had apparent and more serious symptoms due to consumption of arsenic contaminated waters, while those of Bihar had lesser and slower impact.
Ghosh said, the nature of daily food, be it vegetarian or non vegetarian, could be the lead factor behind these varying symptoms and the Indo-UK collaborative research would focus on identifying and confirming them through tests on animal models.
The quality of rice, pulses and spices being used by people of the affected districts of both the states would also be examined scientifically. Dr Debo Priya Mondal of Salford University, besides Dr Shatrunjay Kumar Singh and Nupur Bose of AN College will be part of the research team.