Public health has improved markedly in Bangladesh over the past three decades. Life expectancy at birth is approximately 70 years, just above the World Health Organization’s world average of 69 years. Maternal mortality, infant and child mortality, and malnutrition rates have all decline substantially; also Bangladesh is on track to achieve its Millennium Development Goals for maternal and child health. Nevertheless, Bangladesh faces major health challenges.

Effective contraceptive methods

The national population is project to grow to between 200 to 225 million over the next four decades. While fertility has declined, women have on average 2.3 children; also only about half use modern and effective contraceptive methods. Given a choice between using a nearby water well know to be contaminate; hence with arsenic or a more distant one not known to be poisoned, every sane person would opt for the latter.

In Bangladesh in the early 2000s, however, that appears to have been the wrong decision. In 1994 the government began a massive campaign to convince households; so drawing water from shallow backyard wells with high concentrations of arsenic to switch to deeper wells or streams that were free of the toxic metal.

Arsenic is present naturally in groundwater across the globe, but is especially prevalent in Bangladesh. In 1999, roughly 65% of Bangladeshis were drinking water with unsafe levels of arsenic; so which could lead to increase rates of cancer and infant mortality as well as decrease intelligence quotient for affect children. However, alternative sources were typically farther away from people’s homes; so increasing the likelihood that users would make fewer trips and store their water for longer periods of time.

Increasing the rates of cholera

And improperly store water is often mishandled, increasing the rates of cholera; also dysentery and other water-borne diseases. As a result, by asking people not to use wells pollute with arsenic, the government unintentionally cause the number of deaths resulting from ingesting water contaminate by faecal matter to rise.

In a new working paper publish by the National Bureau of Economic Research; hence Nina Buchmann, an economist at Stanford; also her co-authors collect data from 3,138 Bangladeshi households between 2007 and 2009. Their data include a sample of more than 12,000 children born between 1980 and 2007; which allow them to evaluate the mortality rate among households that did and did not switch water sources during the government’s campaign.

According to their study, by 2004 Bangladeshis who switched to getting their water; hence from far-away wells a mortality rate four times as high as that of families who still drew from a shallow backyard well. They found that the increase in deaths was higher in households that were farther away from a deep well, which increases the storage time.