Manganese and Infant Mortality: Well Water May Raise Death Rates in Bangladesh

Article excerpt

Many wells in Bangladesh exceed the WHO threshold for manganese of 0.4 mg/L--in the Araihazar region in eastern Bangladesh, 80% of the wells provide water with manganese concentrations above 0.5 mg/L. A new study now suggests that manganese exposure through drinking water may contribute to Bangladesh's extremely high infant mortality rate of 54 per 1,000 live births [EHP 115:1107-1112; Hafeman et al.].

Well water in Bangladesh already receives close scrutiny for its naturally high levels of arsenic, a known carcinogen. Manganese is also a concern, however, due to research showing associations between exposure and subclinical neurological effects in adults and decreased intellectual function in children. Additionally, neonatal animal studies have linked reduced weight gain and decreased survival to manganese exposure.

An ongoing cohort study in Araihazar, the Health Effects of Arsenic Longitudinal Study (HEALS), provided the framework for investigating whether manganese might affect human infant survival. Of the HEALS participants, 1,628 women met the criteria for the current study: they married before age 40, drank from the same well for most of their reproductive years, and reported at least one live birth. …