Arsenic Research and Global Sustainability

The 6th International Congress on Arsenic in the Environment (As2016) was held in Stockholm from 19 to 23 June 2016. The congress was a collaboration between KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden (Sweden), Institute of Environmental Medicine-Karolinska Institute (Sweden), Bolin Center for Climate Research of Stockholm University (Sweden), LTU Luleå University of Technology (Sweden), University of Southern Queensland (Australia) and KWR Watercycle Research Institute (The Netherlands). Arslan Ahmad (KWR) chaired the exhibition at As2016 and is one of the Editors of the conference proceedings book.

The International Congress on Arsenic in the Environment has previously been held five times; Mexico 2006, Spain 2008, Taiwan 2010, Australia, 2012 and Argentina 2014. The sixth International Congress on Arsenic in the Environment, As2016, was designed to provide yet another opportunity for sharing knowledge and experience on multidisciplinary issues on arsenic occurrences in groundwater and other environmental compartments on a worldwide scale for identifying and promoting optimal approaches for the assessment and management of arsenic in the environment. As2016 was themed as “Arsenic Research and Global Sustainability”, owing to the fact that in 2016 the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by world leaders in September 2015 at a historic UN Summit, officially came into force. The increased emphasis on holistic management of drinking water services and monitoring of drinking water quality in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will further raise the global profile of arsenic in order to achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all.

Occurrence of elevated arsenic concentrations in ground water used for drinking purpose, and associated health risks, were reported at first international conference on environmental arsenic, which was held in Fort Lauderdale, USA, almost exactly 40 year ago; October, 1976. Over the past 2 to 3 decades arsenic in drinking water, and more recently, in plant based foods, especially rice, has been recognized as a major public health concern in many parts of the world. Latest surveys estimated that currently more than 200 million people around the world are exposed to unacceptably high arsenic levels. The geological, geomorphological and geochemical reasons for high arsenic concentrations in groundwater vary from place to place and require different mitigation policies and practices. Although, the high income countries may invest in research and development of suitable remediation techniques, arsenic in private water sources is not always tested. On the other hand, low to lower-middle income countries, such as many areas in South-East Asia, Africa and South America, where millions of people still use arsenic-contaminated drinking water, are still coping with stagnated mitigation efforts and slow progress towards safe drinking water.

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