A comprehensive review on current status, mechanism, and possible sources of arsenic contamination in groundwater: a global perspective with prominence of Pakistan scenario

  • Waqar Ali
  • Atta Rasool
  • Muhammad Junaid
  • Hua ZhangEmail author
Review Paper


Arsenic(As)-mediated contamination of groundwater resources in different parts of the world is a consequence of natural or anthropogenic sources, leading to adverse effects on the environment and human health. Millions of people from different countries are unfortunately consuming groundwater contaminated with alarming levels of As. Exposure to the high concentration of As for an extended period of time can cause devastating effects on human health such as skin lesions, cardiac disorders, discolouration and cancer. Until 2018, about 11 districts of Sindh and Punjab provinces in Pakistan had been found with As contamination in groundwater beyond the national defined permissible level, i.e. 50 µg/L. Tharparkar and Hyderabad (in Sindh province) along Indus river and Lahore and Kasur (in Punjab province) are well-known hotspots sites of natural geogenic As contamination in groundwater. Higher levels of Sulfates (SO42−), Chloride (Cl) and Carbonate (CO32−) along with the elevated values of electrical conductivity and basic pH, as well as augmented presence of “As V” species, were all an indication of oxidizing condition in groundwater, and these oxidizing conditions are identified as the primary mechanism of As contamination into aquifers of Pakistan via oxidative dissolution. The main aim of this review is to summarize and discuss the current contamination status of As in groundwater water globally with a special focus on Pakistan scenario, isotopic evidence to track sources of groundwater recharge and its effects on As contamination in groundwater with various redox conditions prevailing in Pakistan. In addition, public health consequences of As contamination and mitigation strategies for As removal from water resources have been also highlighted. In this review, the data were extracted from various cutting edge studies published in national and international journals.


Arsenic Groundwater Sources Mechanisms Isotope evidence Comparison Health effects 



The authors are thankful to University of Chinese Academy of Sciences for providing scholarship to Waqar Ali, Muhammad Junaid, and Atta Rasool. This work is supported by the National Key R&D Program of China (No. 2017YFD0800302) and the Natural Science Foundation of China (4157312).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10653_2018_169_MOESM1_ESM.docx (260 kb)
Table S1 Major Arsenic-bearing minerals occurring in nature (Mandal and Suzuki 2002). Table S2 shows selective redox-sensitive compounds to identify redox condition.Table S3 Chronic Effects of Arsenic on Human Health (Barringer and Reilly 2013). Figure S1 Pakistan regions that are facing arsenic contamination in groundwater under various redox conditions comparison bivariate plots of Arsenic versus pH, EC (μS/cm), SO42− (mg/L), NO3 (mg/L), HCO3 (mg/L) and Mn (mg/L) (DOCX 260 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Waqar Ali
    • 1
    • 2
  • Atta Rasool
    • 1
    • 2
  • Muhammad Junaid
    • 2
    • 3
  • Hua Zhang
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Environmental Geochemistry, Institute of GeochemistryChinese Academy of SciencesGuiyangChina
  2. 2.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Research Center for Environment and Health, Chongqing Institute of Green and Intelligent TechnologyChinese Academy of SciencesChongqingChina

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