Arsenic Contamination of Drinking Water and Mental Health

28 Pages Posted: 9 Dec 2015

See all articles by Shyamal Chowdhury

Shyamal Chowdhury

The University of Sydney

Annabelle Krause-Pilatus

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Klaus F. Zimmermann

Global Labor Organization (GLO); UNU-MERIT; Maastricht University, Department of Economics; Free University Berlin; University of Bonn; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); Journal of Population Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: December 2015

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, Bangladesh, environment, mental health, subjective well-being, water pollution

JEL Classification: I10, I31, Q53

Suggested Citation

Chowdhury, Shyamal and Krause-Pilatus, Annabelle and Zimmermann, Klaus F., Arsenic Contamination of Drinking Water and Mental Health (December 2015). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP10978, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2701272

Shyamal Chowdhury (Contact Author)

The University of Sydney ( email )

University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006
Australia

Annabelle Krause-Pilatus

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

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

Klaus F. Zimmermann

Global Labor Organization (GLO) ( email )

Bonn
Germany

HOME PAGE: http://https://glabor.org/

UNU-MERIT ( email )

Keizer Karelplein 19
Maastricht, 6211TC
Netherlands

Maastricht University, Department of Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 616
Maastricht, 6200MD
Netherlands

University of Bonn

Postfach 2220
Bonn, D-53012
Germany

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

Journal of Population Economics

Tiergartenstr. 17
D-69121 Heidelberg
Germany

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