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Arsenic Contamination in Rice, Wheat, Pulses, and Vegetables: A Study in an Arsenic Affected Area of West Bengal, India


Ganga-Meghna-Bramhaputra basin is one of the major arsenic-contaminated hotspot in the world. To assess the level of severity of arsenic contamination, concentrations of arsenic in irrigation water, soil, rice, wheat, common vegetables, and pulses, intensively cultivated and consumed by the people of highly arsenic affected Nadia district, West Bengal, India, were investigated. Results revealed that the arsenic-contaminated irrigation water (0.318–0.643 mg l-1) and soil (5.70–9.71 mg kg-1) considerably influenced in the accumulation of arsenic in rice, pulses, and vegetables in the study area. Arsenic concentrations of irrigation water samples were many folds higher than the WHO recommended permissible limit for drinking water (0.01 mg l-1) and FAO permissible limit for irrigation water (0.10 mg l-1). But, the levels of arsenic in soil were lower than the reported global average of 10.0 mg kg-1 and was much below the EU recommended maximum acceptable limit for agricultural soil (20.0 mg kg-1). The total arsenic concentrations in the studied samples ranged from <0.0003 to 1.02 mg kg-1. The highest and lowest mean arsenic concentrations (milligrams per kilogram) were found in potato (0.654) and in turmeric (0.003), respectively. Higher mean arsenic concentrations (milligrams per kilogram) were observed in Boro rice grain (0.451), arum (0.407), amaranth (0.372), radish (0.344), Aman rice grain (0.334), lady's finger (0.301), cauliflower (0.293), and Brinjal (0.279). Apart from a few potato samples, arsenic concentrations in the studied crop samples, including rice grain samples were found not to exceed the food hygiene concentration limit (1.0 mg kg-1). Thus, the present study reveals that rice, wheat, vegetables, and pulses grown in the study area are safe for consumption, for now. But, the arsenic accumulation in the crops should be monitored periodically as the level of arsenic toxicity in the study area is increasing day by day.

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The authors are thankful to the Department of Environment, Government of West Bengal, India, for providing funding to carry out the investigation and to the Department of Environmental Science, University of Kalyani, West Bengal, India, for providing us the laboratory facilities.

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Correspondence to P. Bhattacharya.

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Bhattacharya, P., Samal, A.C., Majumdar, J. et al. Arsenic Contamination in Rice, Wheat, Pulses, and Vegetables: A Study in an Arsenic Affected Area of West Bengal, India. Water Air Soil Pollut 213, 3–13 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11270-010-0361-9

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  • Arsenic
  • Irrigation water
  • Crop
  • Vegetable
  • Rice
  • West Bengal