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Zinc in Well Water and Infant Mortality in Bangladesh: A Report from Gonoshasthaya Kendra

Author(s): Nicola Cherry | Corbett McDonald | Zafrullah Chowdhury

Journal: International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
ISSN 1660-4601

Volume: 9;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 171;
Date: 2012;
Original page

Keywords: zinc | drinking water | infant mortality | diarrhoea | Bangladesh

Zinc supplementation reduces the duration, severity and recurrence of diarrhoea in young children. This study examines whether zinc, found naturally in drinking water, reduced infant deaths from diarrhoea in rural Bangladesh. Information was compiled for births over two calendar years with follow-up for deaths within one year of birth. The study included 29,744 live births and 934 deaths in some 600 villages under the care of Gonoshasthaya Kendra (GK), grouped into 15 health centre regions within 12 upazillas. Individual matching of death to birth data was not possible, but information on exposures through well water and on potential confounders was available for each upazilla. Average concentration of zinc in well water, reported by the British Geological Survey, was grouped into high (>0.07 mg/L), moderate (0.020–0.070 mg/L) and low (&lt 0.020 mg/L) concentrations. Odds ratios (OR) were calculated for zinc by age and cause of death. Zinc concentration was unrelated to all-cause mortality but a decrease in deaths from diarrhoea (N = 50) was seen in areas with high zinc (OR = 0.30; 95% CI 0.13–0.69). No relation to diarrhoeal deaths was found with other well contaminants (arsenic, manganese) having accounted for zinc. Upazillas with a high proportion of women without education had higher rates of death from diarrhea, but the decrease in risk with high zinc remained (OR adjusted = 0.41; 95% CI 0.20–0.84). It is concluded that exposure to zinc through drinking water may reduce risk of diarrhoeal deaths.

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