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Bangladeshi villagers are threatening to sue the British Geological Society (BGS) for what has been described as one of the worst mass poisonings in history.

The claimants — whose numbers could run into thousands — drank arsenic-contaminated water from wells dug by the BGS during the 1980s and early 1990s. They allege that the BGS’s failure to test the well-water for arsenic makes the agency responsible for their poisoning.

BGS vigorously denies any responsibility, arguing that at the time when water safety was tested, arsenic was not a recognised contaminant of groundwater in Bangladesh. Meanwhile, some researchers are suggesting that the threat of such legal action may deter scientists from working on aid projects in the developing world.

Source: Nature Science Update, 11 October 2001

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