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Improving Human Health by Reducing Arsenic in Food Legumes


L. Carpenter-Boggs, M. Islam, R. McGee, C. Coyne, J. Harsh, J. Piaskowski, S. Roje, Z. Alam, N. Amin, I. Chowdhury


Arsenic (As) poses a significant threat to humans and ecosystems worldwide. Arsenic in soil and water reduces plant growth, agricultural crop yields, and animal health. Humans ingest contaminated food crops and water, causing arsenic poisoning. By damaging both quantity and quality of crops, arsenic contamination reduces nutritional and food security.

Arsenic causes an array of skin ailments, cancers, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and neurological effects. The worst human arsenic exposure in history is underway in the Bengal Delta including Bangladesh. The World Health Organization now calls this “the largest mass poisoning in history.”



Hands with palms up showing the signs of arsenic poisoning.
A sign of arsenic poisoning is black dots under the skin, followed by open sores.

The most common foods in Bangladesh are rice, lentils, wheat, and milk (particularly for infants and children). Lentils and wheat are also primary crops in eastern Washington, home of WSU.

This complex issue calls for action. The research team at Washington State University can address the interlinked problem of soil, water, and crop contamination to dramatically lower human As intake. Our approach utilizes the natural genetic resources in global biodiversity in food legumes (lentils, peas, mung beans) and beneficial fungi (vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi). Our research would provide crop varieties and inoculants to dramatically lower the arsenic in these major foods.

As a multidisciplinary team, we have developed a concept for a research program, paired with industry and community engagement, that could effectively save hundreds of thousands of lives by dramatically reducing arsenic poisoning in Bangladesh and West Bengal, India. Here is an outline of the Accelerated Program for Low Arsenic Intake (APLAI) (Pronounced “apply”)

To discuss or donate: Contact Dr. Lynne Carpenter-Boggs, 509-335-1553

Research by our group includes:

Alam, M. Z., Hoque, M. A., Ahammed, G. J., & Carpenter-Boggs, L. (2019). Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi reduce arsenic uptake and improve plant growth in Lens culinaris. PloS one, 14(5), e0211441.

Alam, M. Z., McGee, R., Hoque, M. A., Ahammed, G. J., & Carpenter-Boggs, L. (2019). Effect of Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi, Selenium and Biochar on Photosynthetic Pigments and Antioxidant Enzyme Activity Under Arsenic Stress in Mung Bean (Vigna radiata). Frontiers in Physiology, 10.

Roje, S., Islam, M., McGee, R., Coyne, C., Harsh, J., Piaskowski, J., & Carpenter-Boggs, L. Lentil Selection and Management to Reduce Dietary Intake of Arsenic. BIOAG PROJECT FINAL REPORT. 99CarpenterBoggs.