Even limited arsenic exposure can mar cognitive ability: study

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Source: The post is based on the article “Even limited arsenic exposure can mar cognitive ability: study” published in The Hindu on 20th May 2023

What is the News?

A study has found that even low levels of arsenic consumption may impact cognitive function in children, adolescents and young adults.

What is Arsenic?

Arsenic is a natural component of the earth’s crust and is widely distributed throughout the environment in the air, water and land. However, it is highly toxic in its inorganic form.

People are exposed to elevated levels of inorganic arsenic through drinking contaminated water, using contaminated water in food preparation and irrigation of food crops among others.

Long-term intake of arsenic-contaminated water leads to arsenic poisoning or arsenicosis, with cancer of skin, bladder, kidney or lung or diseases of the skin (colour changes, and hard patches on palms and soles), or blood vessels of legs and feet.

In India, the states of West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Manipur and Chhattisgarh are reported to be most affected by arsenic contamination of groundwater above the permissible level.

What was the study conducted on Arsenic?

A study was conducted to understand how a range of environmental and biological factors affect neurological and cognitive development in young people.

It found that those people exposed to arsenic had reduced grey matter (brain tissue that is vital to cognitive functions) and weaker connections within key regions of the brain that enable concentration, switching between tasks and temporary storage of information.

Chronic exposure to arsenic could be creating a ‘silent pandemic’ affecting large portions of the global population.

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