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Frontiers of Medicine

ISSN 2095-0217

ISSN 2095-0225(Online)

CN 11-5983/R

Postal Subscription Code 80-967

2018 Impact Factor: 1.847

Front Med    2011, Vol. 5 Issue (4) : 420-433     DOI: 10.1007/s11684-011-0158-2
Arsenic geochemistry of groundwater in Southeast Asia
Kyoung-Woong Kim1(), Penradee Chanpiwat1, Hoang Thi Hanh1, Kongkea Phan1, Suthipong Sthiannopkao2
1. School of Environmental Science & Engineering and International Environmental Analysis & Education Center (IEAEC), Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology (GIST), Gwangju 500-712, South Korea;; 2. Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Medical College, National Cheng Kung University (NCKU), Tai Nan City 70403, Taiwan, China
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The occurrence of high concentrations of arsenic in the groundwater of the Southeast Asia region has received much attention in the past decade. This study presents an overview of the arsenic contamination problems in Vietnam, Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Thailand. Most groundwater used as a source of drinking water in rural areas has been found to be contaminated with arsenic exceeding the WHO drinking water guideline of 10 μg·L-1. With the exception of Thailand, groundwater was found to be contaminated with naturally occurring arsenic in the region. Interestingly, high arsenic concentrations (>10 μg·L-1) were generally found in the floodplain areas located along the Mekong River. The source of elevated arsenic concentrations in groundwater is thought to be the release of arsenic from river sediments under highly reducing conditions. In Thailand, arsenic has never been found naturally in groundwater, but originates from tin mining activities. More than 10 million residents in Southeast Asia are estimated to be at risk from consuming arsenic-contaminated groundwater. In Southeast Asia, groundwater has been found to be a significant source of daily inorganic arsenic intake in humans. A positive correlation between groundwater arsenic concentration and arsenic concentration in human hair has been observed in Cambodia and Vietnam. A substantial knowledge gap exists between the epidemiology of arsenicosis and its impact on human health. More collaborative studies particularly on the scope of public health and its epidemiology are needed to conduct to fulfill the knowledge gaps of As as well as to enhance the operational responses to As issue in Southeast Asian countries.

Keywords arsenic      groundwater      drinking water      arsenicosis      Mekong River      Southeast Asia     
Corresponding Authors: Kim Kyoung-Woong,   
Issue Date: 05 December 2011
URL:     OR
Fig.1  Distribution of globally documented naturally-occurring As groundwater contamination (Modified after References 2, 3, 5, 6)
Fig.2  The metabolism of inorganic arsenic.
Organ systemEffects
GastrointestinalPortal hypertension, gastrointestinal hemorrhage
CardiovascularPeripheral vascular disorder- black foot disease, high blood pressure
UrinaryProximal tubule degeneration, papillary and cortical necrosis
HepaticHepatomegaly, portal fibrosis, cirrhosis, altered heme metabolism
DermalSkin lesions (hyperpigmentation, hyperkeratosis, desquamation, loss of hair)
NervousPeripheral neuropathy, encephalopathy
HematologicalBone marrow depression (anemia, leucopenia, thrombocytopenia)
EndocrineDiabetes, hormone regulation and hormone mediated gene transcription suppression
Respiratory and pulmonaryCough, bronchitis, chest sound, shortness of breath
ReproductionFetal loss, necrosis, apoptosis, conception in the uterus, death of newborn, premature delivery, decreased birth weight of infants
Tab.1  Non-carcinogenic human health effects observed after chronic As exposure
CountryPopulation at riskLevel of As (μg·L-1)Year of first discoveryNational standard of As in drinking water (μg·L-1)References
- Red River delta10 000 0001–3 1002001103, 5, 31
- Mekong River delta1000 000ND–1 351200532, 33
Cambodia100 000Up to 3 50019995041
Lao PDRUnknownND–2782001502, 3, 5
Thailand15 0001.3–5 11419885065, 66
Tab.2  Geodemographic data of naturally occurring As in groundwater in Southeast Asia
Fig.3  A map of arsenic groundwater contamination in Southeast Asia.
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