Swiss and Chinese researchers have created a computer model to gauge which regions of China are most susceptible to groundwater being poisoned by arsenic. Using geological maps, they have determined that between 19.5 to 20 million people are in heavy-risk zones. Identifying these regions should help scientists isolate which ground-water wells need immediate attention, as there is over ten million such wells which require screening.
This issue is far-reaching, well beyond the drinking-water concern, because rice - a dietary staple for over half the world's population - appears to naturally absorb arsenic. This makes monitoring ground-water in China a critical practice, for it is the Asian nation's primary agricultural export; even in U.S., which grows a substantial volume of the cereal grain, seven percent of all rice consumed here is imported from China.
Although arsenic is a natural chemical element [symbol *As] which serves industrial purposes, ingestion can lead to a myriad of serious health concerns. Headaches, chronic vomiting and severe diarrhea can occur in the early stages of poisoning, with bloody urine, extreme muscle cramps, convulsions and certain cancers arising in acute cases; if left unchecked arsenic poisoning will eventually lead to death by coma.
It is estimated that 140 million people across the globe drink water laced with unsafe levels of *As. While arsenic seeping into groundwater is a naturally-occurring event, there is contentious debate over whether or not the practice of fracking contributes to the crisis.
From The Apocalyst: New study: Arsenic in groundwater at fracking sites