Arsenic Contamination of Drinking Water and Mental Health

28 Pages Posted: 12 Oct 2015

See all articles by Shyamal Chowdhury

Shyamal Chowdhury

The University of Sydney

Annabelle Krause

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Klaus F. Zimmermann

Harvard University; German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin); University of Bonn; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

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Abstract

This paper investigates the effect of drinking arsenic contaminated water on mental health. Drinking water with an unsafe arsenic level for a prolonged period can lead to arsenicosis, which includes symptoms such as black spots on the skin and subsequent illnesses such as various cancers. We collected household survey data from Bangladesh, a country with wide arsenic contamination of groundwater to construct several measures for arsenic contamination that include the actual arsenic level in the respondent's tubewell (TW) and past institutional arsenic test results, as well as collected household members' arsenicosis symptoms and their physical and mental health.We find that suffering from an arsenicosis symptom is strongly negatively related to mental health, even more so than from other illnesses. Furthermore, individuals drinking from an untested TW have lower mental health and having to walk a longer distance to a TW also decreases mental health. Calculations of the costs of arsenic contamination reveal that the average individual would need to be compensated for suffering from an arsenicosis symptom by an amount as high as the average annual household income.

Keywords: arsenic, water pollution, mental health, subjective well-being, environment, Bangladesh

JEL Classification: Q53, I10, I31

Suggested Citation

Chowdhury, Shyamal and Krause, Annabelle and Zimmermann, Klaus F., Arsenic Contamination of Drinking Water and Mental Health. IZA Discussion Paper No. 9400. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2672186

Shyamal Chowdhury (Contact Author)

The University of Sydney ( email )

University of Sydney
Sydney, NC NSW 2006
Australia

Annabelle Krause

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Klaus F. Zimmermann

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin)

Mohrenstra├če 58
Berlin, 10117
Germany

University of Bonn

Postfach 2220
Bonn, D-53012
Germany

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

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