ARSENIC CRISIS REACHES EPIDEMIC PROPORTIONS
Apyron Technologies Provides Safe Solution for Remote Villages in India
ATLANTA, February 26, 2001 - The Indian government has stepped up its efforts to aggressively fight back against arsenic, a poisonous element contaminating drinking water in many regions of the country. With the number of people potentially at risk from arsenic poisoning reaching epidemic proportions, the government has made a strong appeal to international relief agencies to assist in purchasing much needed water treatment units. UNICEF, the international relief agency, was the first to respond to this request via a grant to the Public Health and Engineering Directorate (PHED) of West Bengal. The PHED will use this grant to fund the installation of multiple groundwater Arsenic Treatment Units (ATUs) designed and engineered by Atlanta-based Apyron Technologies, a material sciences technology company. It is estimated that the installation of these units will provide safe drinking water to more than 4,500 villagers.
On February 20, 2001, the West Bengal Assembly recognized the advantages of groundwater treatment units over other types of treatment methods, such as surface water treatment, and urged their installation within the arsenic prone areas. Apyron's ATU, designed to treat arsenic contaminated groundwater, is the only technology to be designated as "Best Available Treatment Technology" by the PHED thus far. In response to this, the PHED has selected this technology for installation in other arsenic-plagued villages. Apyron began installation of its ATU's in India during 1997 through a series of field demonstrations.
"There is an urgent need to install ATUs in all of the affected areas of West Bengal," said Mr. R. K. Tripathy, Principal Secretary for the West Bengal PHED. "We applaud UNICEF for being the first relief agency to help us tackle this crisis. Given that over 10 million people are currently exposed to arsenic poisoning, and that number is now growing everyday, we are appealing to the international relief agencies for their assistance in dealing with this epidemic."
Dr. Allan H. Smith of the University of California at Berkley noted in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization 2000, that "The scale of this environmental disaster is greater than any seen before; it is beyond the accidents at Bhopal, India, in 1984, and Chernobyl, Ukraine, in 1986." His research shows that 1 in 10 people will die of cancers caused by long-term exposure to arsenic at levels greater than 500 ppb.
Beginning in March, Apyron will install the UNICEF funded ATUs in the Maldah district of West Bengal, about 400 kilometers north of Calcutta. Villages receiving the ATUs will be selected by the PHED using survey results of the affected areas. The PHED has also issued a request to the central Indian government for funds to purchase 7,000 treatment units, providing safe water for an additional 1.5 million people.
Arsenic is a metallic element that occurs both naturally and from human activity. Its presence in ground water is largely the result of geochemical soil leaching.
Apyron CEO Rom Papadopoulos, who earned his medical degree from the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki in Greece, said that arsenic in water has been linked to several types of cancer as well as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and developmental and neurological disorders. "Arsenic really is an insidious toxin," he said. "It has no smell, usually no taste and absorbs quickly into bodily tissues."
Within India, the West Bengal region has especially high concentrations of arsenic in drinking water, far exceeding World Health Organization standard of 10 parts per billion. In the United States, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has recently issued a new standard lowering that limit to 10 parts per billion.
In Bangladesh, where arsenic contaminated drinking water is being experienced in even greater numbers, Apyron has installed five units serving four villages of about 400-500 people each and anticipates the installation of several thousand units later in the year.
Apyron develops and markets advanced material science technology solutions that improve the quality of life. Applications for Apyron's proprietary technologies include air and water purification, transportation, energy, pharmaceuticals, health care, food, beverages and agriculture. Founded in 1994, the Atlanta-based private company has more than 40 employees, including internationally respected chemists and scientists, and projects in multiple countries.
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