Does chronic low level arsenic exposure reduce lung function?



According to the World Health Organisation, arsenic exposure in drinking water is a hazard to human health. The association of arsenic exposure and lung cancer risk has been studied quite extensively; the association of such exposure, however, to non-malignant respiratory diseases.

In a recently published study, Das Debangshu** and colleagues aimed to investigate the respiratory effects of chronic low-level arsenic exposure from groundwater in West Bengal, India. Two groups of healthy, non-smoker males were compared to each other: one group was exposed to drinking water with arsenic, while the other was drinking water with less than 10μg/L arsenic (total n=834). The prevalence of respiratory symptoms and the lung function was examined in all participants.

The authors report higher prevalence of upper and lower respiratory symptoms, dyspnea, asthma, eye irritation and headache. About 20% of arsenic-exposed subjects had lung function deficits, compared to about 13% of the unexposed subjects.

The authors conclude that even low level arsenic exposure (11–50 µg/L) has harmful respiratory effects. In this area of India and the neighbouring Bangladesh this finding is of particular importance, as many people are exposed to such levels of arsenic.


*picture credit

** this study was written by: Debangshu Das, Banani Bindhani, Bidisha Mukherjee, Hirak Saha, Priyanka Biswas, Kaustav Dutta, Priyanka Prasad, Dona Sinhaand Manas Ranjan Ray

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