Until recent decades, arsenic poisoning was regarded as an obscure or local phenomenom , however, it is now recognised to be a global problem. Natural arsenic pollution of groundwater and, to a lesser extent, surface water, is known to have exposed more than 140 million people to arsenic concentrations above the WHO guideline of 10 micrograms per litre in at least 70 countries. Symptoms of chronic arsenic poisoning include hyperpigmentation, dipygmentation, keratosis, skin cnacer, internal cancer and even death.
Recent data from UNICEF indicates that up to 2.4 million Cambodians are at risk from arsenic poisoning, a figure that represents approximately 27% of the countries population, due to groundwater being a huge source of drinking water for rural Cambodians with thousands of wells in use around the country. Not all are contaminated with arsenic however and RDIC is currently undertaking a huge water survey of all the provinves in Cambodia to identify and map which wells and areas are contaminated and to determine water use patterns. Other significant threats to health have been identified in groundwater including Manganese and high levels of Nitrates. The scale of the drinking water situation in Cambodia is dramatic to say the least, however many organisations are working in conjuntion with the Ministry of Rural Development to achieve the Governments Millenium Development Goals whereby 2025 one hundred percent of the population will have access to safe drinking water.