Arsenic exposure and perception of health risk due to groundwater contamination in Majuli (river island), Assam, India

  • Ritusmita Goswami
  • Manish KumarEmail author
  • Nivedita Biyani
  • Patrick J. Shea
Original Paper


Island populations are rarely studied for risk of arsenic (As) poisoning. As poisoning, multimetal contamination and people’s perceptions of health risks were assessed on India’s Majuli Island, the largest inhabited river island in the world. This holistic approach illustrated the association of groundwater contamination status with consequent health risk by measuring levels of inorganic arsenic (iAs) in groundwater, borehole sediment and biological samples (hair, nails and urine). Piper and Gibbs’s plots discerned the underlying hydrogeochemical processes in the aquifer. Demographic data and qualitative factors were evaluated to assess the risks and uncertainties of exposure. The results exhibited significant enrichment of groundwater with As, Mn and Fe along with significant body burden. Maximum Hazard Index values indicated severe non-carcinogenic health impacts as well as a significantly elevated risk of cancer for both adults and children. Most (99%) of the locally affected population did not know about the adverse health impacts of metal contamination, and only 15% understood bodily ailments and health issues. Various aspects of the island environment were used to elucidate the status of contamination and future risk of disease. A projection showed adverse health outcomes rising significantly, especially among the young population of Majuli, due to overexposure to not only As but also Ba, Mn and Fe.


Arsenic Groundwater Sediment Biological sample Health risk Hazard indices 



This work is funded by Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB), the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Govt. of India under the Fast Track Young Scientist Scheme (Grant no SR/FTP/ES-27/2013) awarded to Dr Ritusmita Goswami.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 30 kb)


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental ScienceThe Assam Royal Global UniversityGuwahatiIndia
  2. 2.Discipline of Earth SciencesIndian Institute of TechnologyGandhinagarIndia
  3. 3.School of Civil and Environmental EngineeringArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  4. 4.School of Natural ResourcesUniversity of Nebraska-LincolnLincolnUSA

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