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Arsenic outside Rome a 'true emergency' says health minister

Balduzzi says no time to waste fixing drinking water

12 April, 15:48
Arsenic outside Rome a 'true emergency' says health minister (ANSA) - Rome, April 12 - Italy's health minister on Friday said that high arsenic levels in drinking water in 50 cities and towns in the Lazio region around Rome amounted to a "true emergency". "We cannot wait any longer for a solution," Renato Balduzzi told ANSA. In January authorities banned drinking public water in 32 areas of Lazio, mainly around the city of Viterbo north of Rome after arsenic levels were found to be over the European Union limit of 10 micrograms per liter. On Friday a study showed that the level of arsenic found in people who have drunk water in and around Viterbo is twice that found among the general population of Italy. "Great concentrations have been found in children," said the report from the Higher Health Institute (ISS), which examined residents of Viterbo and 16 nearby towns. Lower risks were found in people using public water in Rome and Latina, two other Lazio provincial capitals, the ISS said. The World Health Organisation says arsenic can cause cancer and the EU set limits on its presence in drinking water in 2001.

After the data was announced Friday, Balduzzi held a snap meeting with newly elected Lazio Governor Nicola Zingaretti. "We will launch urgent measures to confront this emergency facing the population around Viterbo," he said.