Nearly 20 million people in China could be exposed to water contaminated with arsenic, a study suggests.
Scientists used information about the geology of the country to predict the areas most likely to be affected by the poison.
The report is published in the journal Science.
Arsenic occurs naturally in the Earth’s crust, but if it leaches into groundwater, long-term exposure can cause serious health risks.
These include skin problems and cancers of the skin, lungs, bladder and kidney.
Until now, estimating the scale of arsenic contamination in large countries has been difficult.
China is thought to have more than 10 million drinking wells, and each needs to be screened to establish whether any toxic compounds are present. This process could take decades.
Instead, researchers from Switzerland and China looked at geological maps of the country.
“What it is very important to do is to go…
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