198690 Arsenicosis in Preak Russey, Cambodia: Who bears responsibility?

Monday, November 9, 2009: 10:30 AM

Woods Nash, MA, MPH , Department of Philosophy, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN
Caleb Brooks , Resource Development International, Louisville, KY
A case study for consideration for a Roundtable session:

Around 2001, UNICEF wellheads were installed on many wells given to Preak Russey, a village in Kandal province, Cambodia. Later, it was found that many of the deep tube wells featuring the UNICEF pumps contained unacceptably high levels of arsenic. Since 2001, many hundreds of residents of Preak Russey have experienced the detrimental effects of arsenicosis. Several of the villagers—apparently those who drew from the wells with the highest concentrations—have died at young ages from cancers often associated with arsenicosis. Several other villagers are now living with or have since been treated for malignant skin lesions. UNICEF maintains that it only provided the wellheads and had no involvement in drilling the wells.

What kinds of pressure—social, political, economic, or otherwise—led to the installation of these wells? What sort of responsibility, if any, does UNICEF bear for these detrimental effects of arsenicosis? What actions might be taken—by UNICEF or others—by way of compensation or reparation for these harmful consequences? In proposing answers to these questions, the authors also discuss their related, ameliorative work with Resource Development International, a non-profit organization in Cambodia. RDI has developed technologies (e.g., ceramic filters, rainwater harvesting systems) to improve impoverished Cambodians' access to clean water. With the support of its laboratory and field staff, RDI has also initiated a drinking water quality index, which provides community leaders with information about groundwater quality in their areas.

Learning Objectives:
Describe UNICEF's involvement in arsenic-contaminated wells in Preak Russey, Cambodia. Discuss the kinds of responsibility borne for the detrimental effects of that contamination.

Keywords: Water Quality, Ethics

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have extensive field experience with RDI, an organization to be discussed in this presentation.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.