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Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2012 Feb;82(1):5-14. doi: 10.1024/0300-9831/a000089.

Groundwater iron assessment and consumption by women in rural northwestern Bangladesh.

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  • 1Department of International Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, USA.


In Bangladesh, approximately 97 % of the rural population uses groundwater as a drinking source. In many areas of the country this water is known to have elevated levels of iron. The contribution to iron intake that this exposure provides, and the impact on health, are unknown. In the pre- and post-monsoon seasons of 2008, we measured iron content of household tube well water, explored local water collection methods, and estimated iron intake through consumption of groundwater for 276 women of reproductive age in a rural setting in northwestern Bangladesh. Groundwater samples were analyzed for total iron (mg/L), arsenic (category of µg/L), pH, temperature (°C), and oxidation-reduction potential (Eh). Participants drank [mean (SD); 2.7 (0.8) L] of water per day, all of which was collected from domestic tube wells. Total iron concentration in groundwater was high, [median (IQR) 16.3 (6.9, 28.2) mg/L], and variable throughout the area. Using this value, estimated daily iron intake [median (IQR)] was 41.1 (16.0, 71.0) mg from drinking water alone. The amount of water consumed was unrelated to its iron concentration (r = - 0.06; p = 0.33) despite potentially unpleasant organoleptic qualities of high iron content in water. Groundwater contributes substantially to daily iron intake of rural Bangladeshi women and currently represents an under-assessed potential source of dietary iron.

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