Erica Field, Duke Economics
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The 1994 discovery of arsenic in ground water in Bangladesh prompted a massive public health effort to test all tubewells in the country and convince nearly one-quarter of the population to switch to arsenic-free drinking water sources. According to numerous sources, the campaign was effective in leading the majority of households at risk of arsenic poisoning to abandon backyard wells in favor of more remote tubewells or surface water sources, a switch widely believed to have saved numerous lives. We investigate the possibility of unintended health consequences of the wide-scale abandonment of shallow tubewells due to higher exposure to fecal-oral pathogens in water from arsenic-free sources.