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Journal of Himalayan Earth Sciences Volume 49, No. 1, 2016 pp.


Arsenic exposure assessment from ground water sources in Peshawar Basin of
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan
Seema Anjum Khattak1*, David Polya2, Liaqat Ali1 and M. Tahir Shah1
1National Centre of Excellence in Geology, University of Peshawar
2School of Earth Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, The University of Manchester, UK.

*Corresponding author E-mail:


Arsenic contaminated groundwater in some south Asian countries like Bangladesh and West Bengal
India is one of the largest environmental health hazards in the world. PCRWR with the help of UNICEF has
carried out a nationwide survey for drinking water arsenic contamination in different parts of Pakistan which
also included limited number of samples from Mardan, Peshawar and Mingora in KPK province. In order to
know the existence of arsenic contamination in ground water of the Peshawar basin, about 30 drinking
exposure (human hair and nails samples from different parts of the Peshawar basin have been collected.
Drinking/cooking water, raw rice, hair and nails samples were analyzed for total arsenic by ICP-MS. Chronic
Daily Intake (CDI mg/Kg Body weight) was calculated for arsenic risk assessment of all the volunteers who
participated in this study. All drinking/cooking water samples were found below the 10 µg/L arsenic
concentration which is the WHO provisional guideline values. The results were also confirmed by the
biomarkers of arsenic exposure from the study population.

1. Introduction 2007; 2009; Nickson, 2005).

Ground water arsenic hazard is world wide The maximum reported level of arsenic in
recognized problem which is reported in various ground water from Kalalanwala, Punjab province is
parts of the world (Nickson, 1998; Polya, 2008; about 1900 µg/L (Farooqi et al., 2007a) and 906
2010; Rahman, 1996; Rahman, 2009; Sengupta, µg/L in Muzaffar Ghar district (Nickson et al.,
2003; Smedley, 2002). 2005). On the other hand up to 352 µg/L of
inorganic arsenic in ground water (n=240) has been
Different environmental exposures, for reported recently in Sind province (Baig et al.,
example drinking, cooking with arsenic 2010) with a maximum of 250 µg/L from southern
contaminated water or eating arsenic contaminated parts of Sind (Arain et al., 2007, 2009).
food for example rice and other rice products and
also the cooking methods of food are mainly According to a survey of PCRWR (2002-2008)
responsible for arsenic contamination (Carbonell et the major identified problems of drinking water are
al., 2009; Chakraborti et al., 2009a). due to arsenic, fluoride, nitrates and bacterial
contamination which needs to be addressed
The health hazards (both carcinogenic and immediately (Farooqi et al., 2003, 2007b, 2009;
noncarcinogenic) associated with chronic intake of PCRWR, 2008a).
arsenic due to drinking arsenic contaminated water
have been investigated and well known (Nickson, In order to have an idea about the ground water
1998; Acharyya, 1999; Ahsan, 2009; Argos, 2010; arsenic situation in KPK province, five districts
Shrestha, 2003; Smith, 2009; 1998). Because of its were selected and random sampling strategy was
bioaccumulative nature and persistency in human applied in this study.
(Huang, 2009; Hughes, 2006) USEPA declared
inorganic arsenic as carcinogenic in nature. 2. Peshawar basin

Ground water arsenic problem is newly The Peshawar basin is an intra-mountain basin
identified in Pakistan as a result of a national level (>5500 km2) situated at the southern margin of the
survey program. At some places in Punjab and Sind Himalayas and northwest of the Indus plain
provinces it is well above the maximum permissible between the longitude 71° 15' and 72° 45' E and
limit of WHO (10µg/L) (Ahmad, 2004; PCRWR, latitude 33° 45' and 34° 30' N in the North West
2003a, 2004; Arain, 2007; 2009; Farooqi, 2003; Frontier Province (NWFP) (currently known as

drilled and operated by Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) whereas in rural areas there are The Peshawar basin is fairly flat with average also domestic wells in most of the houses (WAPDA elevation of 300 m above mean sea level.KPK) of Pakistan. Map of Peshawar Basin (including Peshawar. about 190 tub wells within Peshawar basin. It is bounded by the mountain Both surface water and ground water irrigation ranges of Khyber in the west and northwest. Besides deposits while quaternary flanglomerates are lying these rivers there are several perennial and non- along the margins of the basin.1) (Tariq. 69 . 2001). Attock is practiced in Peshawar basin. irrigate the basin and join the Indus at eastern exit Domestic water supply is served by the 609 wells (Fig. gravels and lacustrine River. the Bara river and the Kalpani Nala. drainage system and ultimately discharge into the covered soils and hosting aquifers of the Peshawar Kabul river. Jehangira. The 1994). soils and aquifers respectively. Charsadda and Swabi) and the drainage system (After Tahirkheli & Burbank. Mardan. Irrigation department operated eastern side where it is open for discharge of water. which drains almost the whole basin and enters the Peshawar floodplain and Peshawar lacustrine plain near Warsak and falls in the Indus River near sediments. A number of dug Cherat in the south and Swat in the north and wells are used for irrigation in Mardan and northeast while the Indus River borders its south Charsadda areas. the quaternary sediments. There are four main rivers draining the central part of the basin is generally covered with Peshawar basin that is the Kabul River. Nowshera. Fig. 1. The Kabul River is the main river basin are classified as Peshawar piedmont. the Swat fluvial micaceous sand. These The west east flowing river Kabul and its tributaries tube wells are used for irrigation purposes. On the basis of perennial Nala that contribute to the Peshawar basin varying lithologies. 1985).

Precautions were made before taking the samples by allowing the water to run through the 5.5 Williamson Research Centre of the School of Earth MΩ deionized water before being dried at 60 °C. Replicates samples were also collected. NCEG. Sampling and field survey filled to the top. Questionnaire survey temperature of 40-48 °C. Hair samples were washed with 25 ml acetone (analytical grade from Fisher brand). The samples were collected and analyzed by using standard methods Visible dirt was removed from the nail samples of analyses accompanied by strict quality control using a nylon wire brush and deionized water. smoking patterns and about their present health status and any health problem especially skin 4. ground water used for drinking as well as cooking purpose were collected along with hair and nail 5.1.4. hair and nail samples were 10 minutes and 25 ml of 18. The wash solution was discarded was performed on ICP MS and ICP AES in the and the nails were rinsed at least 3 times with 18. UK. such 1100 mm in Charsadda and 1500 mm in Peshawar as source of drinking water. assessment process have been applied as it has less After the last wash step. The Peshawar district has a population of 5. 2). Mardan. A labelled clean plastic bottle was 5. the hair samples were subjectivity and more representativeness of the allowed to dry overnight at room temperature. which asked for demographic. 1994). Washing and cleaning procedure samples from volunteers. such as keratosis and melanosis. Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences. and information on potential exposure sources. Then measures.1%/annum (Population Census. University of Manchester. Stratified random sampling method for and sonicated for 10 minutes . rain fall ranges from 340 mm to 630 mm. and the lid replaced. kilometer. An informed consent based questionnaire Human hair and nails samples were also survey was performed along with the sample collected from the volunteers along with their collection in the field and a GPS was used for consent and stored properly in zip lock plastic bags recording the exact sample location. sonicated for The water. January is the coldest month with an average daily temperature of -2° C. patterns. stored in the dark at 4 degree °C and later University of Peshawar prior to the commencement transported on to the SEAES University of of the study. Manchester. diet approximately 1200 mm in Mardan and Nowshera. water consumption (WAPDA . excluding bottled water). 1999).941 with a growth rate of 4.3. Samples of to avoid any contamination.650. subtropical continental lowland type in the western These samples were taken from both males and parts to sub humid to subtropical continental females including different age groups (12-75 lowland type in the eastern parts of the basin. Nowshera.3. sample without increasing the cost and arsenic probability. The wash solution the evaluation of different subgroups of population was discarded and the process was repeated two subjected to arsenic exposure for the risk more times with water and then finally with acetone. The water samples All the procedures of the study were ethically were transported to the geochemistry laboratory of approved by the Ethics Committee of NCEG.2. Population of the field Area problems. The selected districts Drinking water samples (unfiltered) were are the highly populated areas of KPK with the collected in acid-washed 500-mL polyethylene population density ranges from 500-1000 persons bottles from the kitchen tap. The hottest months are June and July with an average daily 5. designated drinking water source. tube well (or other per sq. Climatic condition five districts (Peshawar. Some physical parameters were 1% Triton-X100 solution was used and sonicated measured in the field while the chemical analysis for 20 minutes. Charsadda and Swabi) of Peshawar basin areas The climate of the area ranges from semiarid including urban as well as rural residents (Fig.5MΩ deionized water collected. Each participant was interviewed to complete The mean annual potential evaporation is a questionnaire. The years). Sample collection 1. Samples (n= 30) were collected from 70 . Methodology pipes for a maximum time of 5 minutes in order to purge the source.

used for the drift correction of the raw instrumental data obtained from the ICP-MS. 5. was used during analysis. Field analysis most of the elements is typically below 0. addition to its high sensitivity detection. arsenic by ICP-MS (Plasma Quad II (Fissions). Whatman Conductivity m. were run after every set of 10 samples. calibration curve. It is also preferred for its rapid Calibrated portable probes (Hanna analysis i. Pakistan. Chemical analysis 5. 5. (2005). element analysis capability in a single run. 2.7. All the run in order to check the preparative steps samples were run in duplicate and the standards applied during sample preparation.e..5.01ng/ml. 60 seconds per samples and multi Water Test Meter. Field areas and sample location map for Peshawar Basin KPK. Concentrations were determined using a 5 point An in house Turbo Pascal program. and human hair CRM NCS DC 73347 the same as described by Gault et al. In Sensor) were used to measure the in situ pH. SRM NIST1640 for drinking and cooking Operating conditions for the instrument were water. ICP-MS is useful for those samples DBSCORR program was used for the having very low arsenic as its detection limit for correction of raw instrumental arsenic analysis 71 . Fig. Quality control measures Water samples were analyzed for total Standards reference material (SRM). it has temperature and electrical conductivity of the the ability to measure a large range of drinking water samples in field.6. 1997). concentration (Gill. External standards Arsenic was detected at m/z = 75 with mass and reagent blanks (acid blanks and Milli Q interference from 40Ar35Cl+ corrected through water blanks) were analyzed after every ten monitoring of m/z = 77 and 82 using TJA samples analyzed and duplicate samples were Solutions' Plasma Lab software.

conductivity etc. were integrated by in the drinking and cooking water of different using TRPEAK software (Polya. 2006-2008 for other KPK areas. peak areas for (Table 2). The pH availability of favorable environment for the range is 7. 2002b). There is a normal according to the International Water variation in the pH and EC. Microsoft Excel 2003.and were corrected for blanks. This result for arsenic concentration individual arsenic species.ICP-MS analysis.1-8 µg/L with a mean value of 0. The in the test samples suggest a slightly alkaline average depth of a bore hole in Pakistan is 115 ft nature of water sources.e. The majority of the samples are collected from pH. 2007) also reported the alkaline Table 1.7) in this study For IC. (Shahida. Results of arsenic exposure for the volunteers of Peshawar basin. presentation. All the physical parameters . Table 2. parts of Peshawar basin i. 2002a). viz. analytical sensitivity using a least square fitting of a linear calibration of replicate analysis of The arsenic concentration ranged from five calibration standards (Polya. Peshawar. such as. 0. Results and discussions concentration of arsenic can be the depth and geology of water source (wells and bore holes).8.1 with mean (7) and median (7) release of arsenic is comparatively less. guideline value for arsenic concentration for 2007 and Arc GIS9 were used for data drinking water.56 µg/L (SD=1. Possible reason for the low 6. KPK. SPSS.6 to 9. Previously Management Institute. were Public Health and Engineering Department analyzed on the spot at sources of (PHED) tube wells which are very deep and the drinking/cooking water (Table 1). temperature. Mardan and Swabi is in 5.9 µg/L and an average value 1. Nowshera. Mardan and Mingora and is also less applied for the data analysis and data than the WHO (10 µg/L) recommended presentation. Charsadda. Different statistical techniques were Peshawar. 72 . Data analysis and data presentation agreement with the already reported values of PCRWR. drift and nature of ground water. Results for physical parameters for ground water used for drinking/cooking in KPK.

Arain. 2004 and by Gault et al 2006 in Ganges delta.. information.. Combodia (Gault. Samanta. value of (0.. to arsenic intake from ground water and rice.. collected by the use of questionnaire survey as it gives the exact picture of the absorbed dose in 8. 401.. Nowshera Charsadda and Toxicology. Biomarkers and Mardan which is in accordance with our exposure data are more superior to the one results. 2001a). and Journal of Pakistan Medical body mass index (BMI. T. A.19 mg/Kg) are very References much less than the values obtained for the exposed population in West Bengal India by Acharyya.. M. 59. principal user of each water source was 2009. Majidano.) for each individual was levels in hair and toenail samples in calculated on the basis of this provided pakistan. K.. Sindh. the value of arsenic to arsenic contamination (Slotnick and Nriagu.G.. 71-86. 105-107. H. Khairpur Districts. sediment. interviewed in the national language. hair and nail analysis for absorbed dose Previously PCRWR (2003-2004) also reported of arsenic is now considered as very important no anomalous values for arsenic from Peshawar tool for identifying at risk groups. 2005). I. Anwar. 2004. 2009). 2009. Slotnick et al. M. A Preliminary Study on the Arsenic Contamination of The calculated mean values for chronic Underground Water of Matiari and daily intake from drinking water (0. Afridi.. G. Jamali. Baig. G... B. Khuhawar. maximum contamination level values for and foodstuff from selected area of arsenic contents of drinking water.. BW).. 2008. Mardan. Conclusion the biological system from all sources of exposure (Karagas et al. J. 242-248. Nature. Laos. Pakistan. Sarfraz. Arsenic an Emerging Issue: Experiences from Pakistan... 2005. Swabi. Determination of The overall results were within the arsenic levels in lake water. used to estimate excess life time cancer risk due Arain. Aslam. 2004. S. Tahir.. Polya. S. N. M..A. M.. Kazi. Q. A. A. 2007. A. 30th 7. 2004. Risk assessment WEDC International Conference. The biomarkers of arsenic exposure like biomarkers of arsenic exposure in this area. The results show that the ICP MS analysis for the drinking ground water collected Arsenic in scalp hair. Baig. R. Banglesh (Boyce. 2010. urine. Munshi.. 73 .06 µg/Kg. 1996. This is the first study using human Arain. Arsenic. 545-545. Jamali. 463-467. Jalbani. J. Shah... M. 29(5).A. Rahman.. T.. concentration in human hair and nail samples 2006. USEPA (1989) one hit model was 12(2). 47(1). Chronic Arsenic poisoning. Zehra. M.. Ahmad. Kalown. cadmium and lead (CDI µg/kg/body wt. is far less than the same values calculated Journal of the Chemical Society of for arsenic exposed area of West Bengal and Pakistan. K. T. Environmental sciences. Kazi. H. are also much lower than that of arsenic exposed populations in different parts of the The contents of arsenic in hair (mean world which further confirms our results. Urdu. Y. kg/m2) was also Association. Rahman. Due the WHO (10 µg/L) recommended guideline to the binding of arsenic to keratin of hair and value for arsenic concentration in drinking nails they give an idea about long term exposure water.A..12 mg/Kg) and both hand and toe nails (mean value of (0. Chronic daily intake Anwar. In addition. Pakistan: Estimation of daily actually beneficial for the residents of dietary intake. K. Rashid. which is Sindh. finger and toenails from the major districts of Peshawar basin were is being considered useful biomarkers for within the permissible limits for arsenic below measurement of chronic arsenic exposure. Arsenic poisoning in the Samantha et al.. Vientiane. M.. T. Ahsan. During the field survey at least one Ahsan. 1999. A. Food and Chemical Peshawar. 2007). S.B. M. calculated for him/her. 2008 .

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