Category Archives: Arsenic

Susceptibility differs to the toxic effects of arsenic

Brenda C. Minatel1, Adam P. Sage1, Christine Anderson, Roland Hubaux, Erin A. Marshall, Wan L. Lam, Victor D. Martinez. Environmental arsenic exposure: From genetic susceptibility to pathogenesis. Environment International Volume 112, March 2018, Pages 183–197

More than 200 million people in 70 countries are exposed to arsenic through drinking water. Chronic exposure to this metalloid has been associated with the onset of many diseases, including cancer. Epidemiological evidence supports its carcinogenic potential, however, detailed molecular mechanisms remain to be elucidated. Despite the global magnitude of this problem, not all individuals face the same risk. Susceptibility to the toxic effects of arsenic is influenced by alterations in genes involved in arsenic metabolism, as well as biological factors, such as age, gender and nutrition. Moreover, chronic arsenic exposure results in several genotoxic and epigenetic alterations tightly associated with the arsenic biotransformation process, resulting in an increased cancer risk. In this review, we: 1) review the roles of inter-individual DNA-level variations influencing the susceptibility to arsenic-induced carcinogenesis; 2) discuss the contribution of arsenic biotransformation to cancer initiation; 3) provide insights into emerging research areas and the challenges in the field; and 4) compile a resource of publicly available arsenic-related DNA-level variations, transcriptome and methylation data. Understanding the molecular mechanisms of arsenic exposure and its subsequent health effects will support efforts to reduce the worldwide health burden and encourage the development of strategies for managing arsenic-related diseases in the era of personalized medicine.

Urinary Arsenic Levels Decline in US Population Served by Public Water Supplies

Nigra AE, Sanchez TR, Nachman KE, Harvey D, Chillrud SN, Graziano JH, Navas-Acien A. The effect of the Environmental Protection Agency maximum contaminant level on arsenic exposure in the USA from 2003 to 2014: an analysis of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Lancet Public Health. 2017 Nov;2(11):e513-e521. doi: 10.1016/S2468-2667(17)30195-0.

BACKGROUND: The current US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maximum contaminant level (MCL) for arsenic in public water systems (10 µg/L) took effect in 2006. Arsenic is not federally regulated in private wells. The impact of the 2006 MCL on arsenic exposure in the US, as confirmed through biomarkers, is presently unknown. We evaluated national trends in water arsenic exposure in the US, hypothesizing that urinary arsenic levels would decrease over time among participants using public water systems but not among those using well water. We further estimated the expected number of avoided lung, bladder, and skin cancer cases.

METHODS: We evaluated 14,127 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2003-2014 with urinary dimethylarsinate (DMA) and total arsenic available. To isolate water exposure, we expanded a residual-based method to remove tobacco and dietary contributions of arsenic. We applied EPA risk assessment approaches to estimate the expected annual number of avoided cancer cases comparing arsenic exposure in 2013-2014 vs. 2003-2004.

FINDINGS: Among public water users, fully adjusted geometric means (GMs) of DMA decreased from 3.01 µg/L in 2003-2004 to 2.49 µg/L in 2013-2014 (17% reduction; 95% confidence interval 10%, 24%; p-trend<0.01); no change was observed among well water users (p-trend= 0.35). Assuming these estimated exposure reductions will remain similar across a lifetime, we estimate a reduction of 200 to 900 lung and bladder cancer cases per year depending on the approach used.

INTERPRETATION: The decline in urinary arsenic among public water but not private well users in NHANES 2003-2014 indicates that the implementation of the current MCL has reduced arsenic exposure in the US population. Our study supports prior work showing that well water users are inadequately protected against drinking water arsenic, and confirms the critical role of federal drinking water regulations in reducing toxic exposures and protecting human health.

Hazard Ranking Method for Arsenic Exposure from Private Wells, UK

Crabbe H, Fletcher T, Close R, Watts MJ, Ander EL, Smedley PL, Verlander NQ, Gregory M, Middleton DRS, Polya DA, Studden M, Leonardi GS. Hazard Ranking Method for Populations Exposed to Arsenic in Private Water Supplies: Relation to Bedrock Geology. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2017 Dec 1;14(12). pii: E1490. doi: 10.3390/ijerph14121490.

Approximately one million people in the UK are served by private water supplies (PWS) where main municipal water supply system connection is not practical or where PWS is the preferred option. Chronic exposure to contaminants in PWS may have adverse effects on health. South West England is an area with elevated arsenic concentrations in groundwater and over 9000 domestic dwellings here are supplied by PWS. There remains uncertainty as to the extent of the population exposed to arsenic (As), and the factors predicting such exposure. We describe a hazard assessment model based on simplified geology with the potential to predict exposure to As in PWS. Households with a recorded PWS in Cornwall were recruited to take part in a water sampling programme from 2011 to 2013. Bedrock geologies were aggregated and classified into nine Simplified Bedrock Geological Categories (SBGC), plus a cross-cutting “mineralized” area. PWS were sampled by random selection within SBGCs and some 508 households volunteered for the study. Transformations of the data were explored to estimate the distribution of As concentrations for PWS by SBGC. Using the distribution per SBGC, we predict the proportion of dwellings that would be affected by high concentrations and rank the geologies according to hazard. Within most SBGCs, As concentrations were found to have log-normal distributions. Across these areas, the proportion of dwellings predicted to have drinking water over the prescribed concentration value (PCV) for As ranged from 0% to 20%. From these results, a pilot predictive model was developed calculating the proportion of PWS above the PCV for As and hazard ranking supports local decision making and prioritization. With further development and testing, this can help local authorities predict the number of dwellings that might fail the PCV for As, based on bedrock geology. The model presented here for Cornwall could be applied in areas with similar geologies. Application of the method requires independent validation and further groundwater-derived PWS sampling on other geological formations.

Evidence lacking for low-exposure adverse effects of arsenic

Hong YS, Ye BJ, Kim YM, Kim BG, Kang GH, Kim JJ, Song KH, Kim YH, Seo JW. Investigation of Health Effects According to the Exposure of Low Concentration Arsenic Contaminated Ground Water. International journal of environmental research and public health. 2017 Nov 27;14(12). pii: E1461. doi: 10.3390/ijerph14121461.

Recent epidemiological studies have reported adverse health effects, including skin cancer, due to low concentrations of arsenic via drinking water. We conducted a study to assess whether low arsenic contaminated ground water affected health of the residents who consumed it. For precise biomonitoring results, the inorganic (trivalent arsenite (As III) and pentavalent arsenate (As V)) and organic forms (monomethylarsonate (MMA) and dimethylarsinate (DMA)) of arsenic were separately quantified by combining high-performance liquid chromatography and inductively coupled plasma mass spectroscopy from urine samples. In conclusion, urinary As III, As V, MMA, and hair arsenic concentrations were significantly higher in residents who consumed arsenic contaminated ground water than control participants who consumed tap water. But, most health screening results did not show a statistically significant difference between exposed and control subjects. We presume that the elevated arsenic concentrations may not be sufficient to cause detectable health effects. Consumption of arsenic contaminated ground water could result in elevated urinary organic and inorganic arsenic concentrations. We recommend immediate discontinuation of ground water supply in this area for the safety of the residents.

Another Ecologic Study on Arsenic and Bladder Cancer of Limited Utility

Ecologic studies such as this are not very informative because of limited exposure assessments. But they can certainly generate alarm. Even so, small associations such as this are questionable regardless of precise mathematical computations. Note the absence of confidence intervals on the estimates which sends a strong message to ignore the study altogether.

Saint-Jacques N, Brown P, Nauta L, Boxall J, Parker L, Dummer TJB. Estimating the risk of bladder and kidney cancer from exposure to low-levels of arsenic in drinking water, Nova Scotia, Canada. Environment international. 2017 Oct 28. pii: S0160-4120(17)31385-5. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2017.10.014.

Arsenic in drinking water impacts health. Highest levels of arsenic have been historically observed in Taiwan and Bangladesh but the contaminant has been affecting the health of people globally. Strong associations have been confirmed between exposure to high-levels of arsenic in drinking water and a wide range of diseases, including cancer. However, at lower levels of exposure, especially near the current World Health Organization regulatory limit (10μg/L), this association is inconsistent as the effects are mostly extrapolated from high exposure studies. This ecological study used Bayesian inference to model the relative risk of bladder and kidney cancer at these lower concentrations-0-2μg/L; 2-5μg/L and; ≥5μg/L of arsenic-in 864 bladder and 525 kidney cancers diagnosed in the study area, Nova Scotia, Canada between 1998 and 2010. The model included proxy measures of lifestyle (e.g. smoking) and accounted for spatial dependencies. Overall, bladder cancer risk was 16% (2-5μg/L) and 18% (≥5μg/L) greater than that of the referent group (<2μg/L), with posterior probabilities of 88% and 93% for these risks being above 1. Effect sizes for kidney cancer were 5% (2-5μg/L) and 14% (≥5μg/L) above that of the referent group (<2μg/L), with probabilities of 61% and 84%. High-risk areas were common in southwestern areas, where higher arsenic-levels are associated with the local geology. The study suggests an increased bladder cancer, and potentially kidney cancer, risk from exposure to drinking water arsenic-levels within the current the World Health Organization maximum acceptable concentration.

Fuzzy Health Risk Assessment as a Screening Tool

Li F, Qiu Z, Zhang J, Liu C, Cai Y, Xiao M. Spatial Distribution and Fuzzy Health Risk Assessment of Trace Elements in Surface Water from Honghu Lake. International journal of environmental research and public health. 2017 Sep 4;14(9). pii: E1011. doi: 10.3390/ijerph14091011.

Previous studies revealed that Honghu Lake was polluted by trace elements due to anthropogenic activities. This study investigated the spatial distribution of trace elements in Honghu Lake, and identified the major pollutants and control areas based on the fuzzy health risk assessment at screening level. The mean total content of trace elements in surface water decreased in the order of Zn (18.04 μg/L) > Pb (3.42 μg/L) > Cu (3.09 μg/L) > Cr (1.63 μg/L) > As (0.99 μg/L) > Cd (0.14 μg/L), within limits of Drinking Water Guidelines. The results of fuzzy health risk assessment indicated that there was no obvious non-carcinogenic risk to human health, while carcinogenic risk was observed in descending order of As > Cr > Cd > Pb. As was regarded to have the highest carcinogenic risk among selected trace elements because it generally accounted for 64% of integrated carcinogenic risk. Potential carcinogenic risk of trace elements in each sampling site was approximately at medium risk level (10-5 to 10-4). The areas in the south (S4, S13, and S16) and northeast (S8, S18, and S19) of Honghu Lake were regarded as the risk priority control areas. However, the corresponding maximum memberships of integrated carcinogenic risk in S1, S3, S10-S13, S15, and S18 were of relatively low credibility (50-60%), and may mislead the decision-makers in identifying the risk priority areas. Results of fuzzy assessment presented the subordinate grade and corresponding reliability of risk, and provided more full-scale results for decision-makers, which made up for the deficiency of certainty assessment to a certain extent.

Taiwan Arsenic Study of Limited Value

The confidence intervals on the data analysis presented here are very wide. A lower confidence interval of 1 indicates no effect. Studies such as this showing no association or a weak association are of very limited usefulness.

Hsu LI, Hsieh FI, Wang YH, Lai TS, Wu MM, Chen CJ, Chiou HY, Hsu KH. Arsenic Exposure From Drinking Water and the Incidence of CKD in Low to Moderate Exposed Areas of Taiwan: A 14-Year Prospective Study. Am J Kidney Dis. 2017 Aug 23. pii: S0272-6386(17)30800-4. doi: 10.1053/j.ajkd.2017.06.012.

BACKGROUND: Arsenic exposure is associated with decreased kidney function. The association between low to moderate arsenic exposure and kidney disease has not been fully clarified.

STUDY DESIGN: The association between arsenic exposure from drinking water and chronic kidney disease (CKD) was examined in a long-term prospective observational study.

SETTING & PARTICIPANTS: 6,093 participants 40 years and older were recruited from arseniasis-endemic areas in northeastern Taiwan. Arsenic levels were 28.0, 92.8, and 295.7μg/L at the 50th, 75th, and 90th percentiles, respectively.

PREDICTOR: Well-water arsenic and urinary total arsenic (inorganic plus methylated arsenic species) concentrations, adjusted for urinary creatinine concentration.

OUTCOMES: Kidney diseases (ICD-9 codes: 250.4, 274.1, 283.11, 403.*1, 404.*2, 404.*3, 440.1, 442.1, 447.3, or 580-589) and CKD (ICD-9 code: 585) ascertained using Taiwan’s National Health Insurance database 1998 to2011.

MEASUREMENTS: HRs contrasting CKD risk across arsenic exposure levels were estimated using Cox regression. Prevalence ORs for proteinuria (protein excretion ≥ 200mg/g) comparing quartiles of total urinary arsenic concentrations were estimated using logistic regression.

RESULTS: We identified 1,104 incident kidney disease cases, including 447 CKD cases (incidence rates, 166.5 and 67.4 per 104 person-years, respectively). A dose-dependent association between well-water arsenic concentrations and kidney diseases was observed after adjusting for age, sex, education, body mass index, cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, and analgesic use. Using arsenic concentration ≤ 10.0μg/L as reference, multivariable-adjusted HRs for incident CKD were 1.12 (95% CI, 0.88-1.42), 1.33 (95% CI, 1.03-1.72), and 1.33 (95% CI, 1.00-1.77) for arsenic concentrations of 10.1 to 49.9, 50.0 to 149.9, and ≥150.0μg/L, respectively (P for trend=0.02). The association between arsenic concentration and kidney diseases was stronger for women (P for interaction=0.06). Arsenic values in the range of 50th to 75th and 75th to 100th percentiles of total urinary arsenic concentrations were associated with 50% and 67% higher prevalences, respectively, of proteinuria.

LIMITATIONS: Kidney diseases and CKD outcomes were based on diagnostic codes. Glomerular filtration rates were not available. Other heavy metals were not measured.

CONCLUSIONS: This study describes the temporal relationship between arsenic concentrations ≥ 10μg/L in drinking water and CKD. A dose-dependent association between well-water arsenic concentration and kidney diseases was observed. Higher creatinine-adjusted urinary total arsenic concentrations were associated with a higher prevalence of proteinuria.