Friday, January 29, 2010

The Waters of Izmir

From Hurriyet Daily News,

glass-of-water1İZMİR - International scientists visiting İzmir hailed the city’s battle for cleaner water, comparing it to other countries’ attempts to reduce arsenic levels. Scientists gather in İzmir for the International Congress of Safe Water Production.

İzmir’s successful battle to purify its waters has been praised by international scientists. Visiting the western city for the International Congress of Safe Water Production, international scientists cited examples of cities that had high amounts of arsenic in their waters and hailed İzmir as undertaking one of the most prolific efforts to fight it. First discovered in tests conducted in the summer of 2007, arsenic levels in İzmir’s water were declared to be dangerous. Metropolitan Mayor Aziz Kocaoğlu said after measures had been taken the arsenic level had now been reduced to standard levels.

The arsenic level, which should be 10 micrograms per liter of was found to be 59 micrograms per liter in the Goksu water reservoir and 32 micrograms per liter in the Sarikiz water reservoir. Accordingly, Governor Kirac issued a notice banning its consumption. The Hurriyet article goes on,

"The numbers in İzmir may seem high, but in fact they are not, compared to our country," said Dr. Marta Litter of Argentina’s General San Martin University. "In Argentina, the arsenic level can be as high as 1,000 micrograms per water_health_wellness_expertliter, although it differs among seasons."

"Since 1990, there has been a serious arsenic problem in Bangladesh," said Bhattacharya. "There, the arsenic levels are almost 10 to 15 times higher than in İzmir, as high as 900 micrograms per liter. People are still not using the filtration system and drink arsenic-filled water."

Paul Sylvester from the U.S.-based Solmetex said the problem could also be seen in the United States. "In some parts of the United States, especially in the Northeast and the Southeast, there are 400 to 500 micrograms of arsenic per liter, which is way higher than İzmir’s levels," said Sylvester. "Some states were given five years to move their levels to within EU standards but it can be very expensive."

What are the dangers of arsenic?

The World Health Organization includes among the risks posed by excess long-term exposure to arsenic (arsenicosis): “skin cancer, cancers of the bladder, kidney and lung, diseases of the blood vessels of the legs and feet, and possibly also diabetes, high blood pressure and reproductive disorders.

It is believed that recurring droughts in the Izmir left reservoirs low and amounts of naturally-occurring arsenic had been allowed to build up to unacceptable levels.

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