Project Summary

Over the past three decades, Bangladesh has experienced a nearly universal switch of human consumption from surface water to groundwater in order to improve health. This switch has not proven successful for two reasons: at least a third of the population pumping groundwater from existing tube wells in the country is exposed to toxic levels of arsenic, and diarrheal morbidity remains a severe problem for all age groups in rural Bangladesh. This study determines whether or not households that switched from shallow high-arsenic wells to shallow low-arsenic wells may have increased their exposure to certain microbial pathogens (cholera, E. coli, rotavirus, and shigella).

This study answers two research questions:

1) Has poor sanitation in densely populated villages resulted in widespread contamination of shallow aquifers?

2) Has the transition from surface water to tube wells exposed the population to toxic levels of arsenic resulting in spatial and temporal patterns in the distribution of certain types of diarrheal diseases?

Project Team Members

Michael Emch

Veronica Escamilla

Marc Serre

Yasuyuki Akita

Larry Band


van Geen, A; Ahmed, KM; Akita, A; Alam, MJ; Culligan, PJ; Feighery, J; Ferguson, A; Emch, M; Escamilla, V; Knappett, P; Layton, AC; Mailloux, BJ; McKay, LD; Mey, JL; Serre, ML; Streatfield, PK; Wu, J; Yunus, M. (submitted) Seasonal contamination of shallow tubewells in Bangladesh with the fecal indicator E. coli: impacts of population density and hydrogeology.

Wu, J; Yunus, M; Streatfield, PK; van Geen, A; Escamilla, V; Akita, J; Serre, M; Emch, M. (submitted) Impact of tubewell access and depth on childhood diarrhea in Matlab, Bangladesh.

Wu, J; van Geen, A; Matin, KMM; Akita, Y; Alam MJ; Culligan, PJ; Escamilla, V; Feighery, J; Ferguson, AS; Knappett, P; Mailloux, BJ; McKay, L; Serre, M; Streatfield, PK; Yunus, M; Emch, M. (R&R) Increase in diarrheal disease associated with arsenic mitigation in Bangladesh. PLoS One.

Wu, J; Yunus, M; Streatfield, PK; van Geen, A; Escamilla, V; Akita, J; Serre, M; Emch, M. (R&R) Impact of Tubewell Access and Depth on Childhood Diarrhea in Matlab, Bangladesh. Environmental Health.

Knappett, PSK; Escamilla, V; Layton, A;  McKay, LD;  Emch, M; Williams, DE;  Huq, MR; Alam, MJ; Farhana, L;  Mailloux, BJ; Ferguson, A; Sayler, GS; Ahmed, KM; van Geen, A. (in press) Impact of population and latrines on fecal contamination of ponds in rural Bangladesh. Science of the Total Environment.

Escamilla, V; Wagner, B; Yunus, M; Streatfield, PK; van Geen, A; Emch, M. (2011) Effect of deep tubewells on childhood diarrhea in Bangladesh. Bulletin of the World Health Organization. 89: 521–527. link to article

van Geen, A; Ahmed, K; Akita, Y; Alam, MD; Culligan, P; Feighery, J; Ferguson, A; Emch, M; Escamilla, V; Knappett, P; Layton, A; Mailloux, B; Mckay, L; Mey, J; Serre, M; Streatfield, P; Yunus, M. (2011) Fecal contamination of shallow tubewells in Bangladesh inversely related to arsenic.  Environmental Science & Technology 45(4): 1199–1205. link to article


National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Health, RO1/ EID, “Does Arsenic Mitigation in Bangladesh Raise Exposure to Rotavirus and E. Coli?” Emch, M.E. (PI); Band, L.; Serre, M., with Columbia University (van Geen, PI). $349,888-UNC Portion, 2007-10.

Collaborating Institutions

International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh

Columbia University Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

University of Tennessee Hydrogeology and Environmental Geology Research Group

University of Dhaka