Arsenic Overview Series - Part 5

July 29, 2003
Historical and On-going Research

Research on arsenic can be broken down into three general areas -- health effects, treatment options and cost evaluations.There are more than 1,000 published research papers on health effects alone. This section provides an over-view of the most prominent research related to these areas which have impacted EPA’s decisions. There also are links to research organizations that can provide access to the specific projects conducted.

Health Effects

During the 1940s when a standard for arsenic was first established, the key health effects of ingesting arsenic were believed to be limited to skin cancer and black foot disease. Since that time, extensive research has been done around the world linking arsenic to a wide range of health effects including both cancer and non-cancer causing illnesses.The majority of toxicity and epidemiology research on the topic has been performed outside of the United States, which has been a key factor in the controversy over which level of arsenic is safe for drinking water.

On April 23, 2001, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) was directed by EPA to analyze the research conducted on the health effects of arsenic and make an appropriaterecommendation for the United StatesIn its analysis, NAS used research published through the fall of 1999. In a renewed effort to determine the appropriate level by the Bush Administration, the EPA again has turned to the NAS requesting an analysis of health effects research published since their last review. The NAS’s report is due in October 2001.

Research is continuing on the health effects of arsenic exposure.Currently, research by EPA is focusing on the cancer effects from low exposure to arsenic, arsenic toxicity in human tissues and the effects of dose and length of exposure to arsenic. Research by the University of California-Berkeley studies the effects of dose and cancer risks, nutritional and genetic susceptibility to arsenic effects, DNA analysis of tumors in arsenic-exposed populations and assessment of non-cancer effects from exposure to arsenic.

The following references are papers presented on the health effects of arsenic exposure.

Buchanan, W.D. 1962. Toxicity of Arsenic Compounds. Amsterdam, Elsevier Scientific Publishes. Pp v-viii.

Tay, C. H. and C.S. Seah. 1975. Arsenic Poisoning From Anti-Asthmatic Herbal Preparations. Medical Journal, Australia. 2:424-428.

Neubauer, O. 1947. Arsenical Cancer: A Review. British Journal of Cancer. 1:192-251. (as cited in US EPA, 1976)

Tseng, W. P. 1977. Effects and Dose-Response Relationships of Skin Cancer and Blackfoot Disease with Arsenic. Environmental Health Perspectives. 19:109-119.

Tseng W. P., H. M. Chu , S. W. How, J. M. Fong, C.S. Lin and S. Yeh. 1968. Prevalence of Skin Cancer in an Epidemic Area of Chronic Arsenicism in Taiwan. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 40(3):453-463.

Albores, A., M. E. Cebrian, I. Tellez and B. Valdez. 1979. Comparative Study of Chronic Hydroarsenicism in Two Rural Communities in the Region Lagunra of Mexico.[in Spanish]. Bol. Oficina Sanit. Panam. 86:196-205.

Cebrian, M. E., A. Albores, M. Aguilar and E. Blakely. 1983. Chronic Arsenic Poisoning in the North of Mexico. Human Toxicology. 2:121-133.

U.S. EPA. 1984. Health Assessment Document for Inorganic Arsenic. Office of Health and Environmental Assessment, Office of Research and Development. EPA-600/8-83-021F. March, 1984.

National Research Council. 1999. Arsenic in Drinking Water. Washington, D.C. National Academy Press.

Chen, C. J., Y. C. Chuang, T. M. Lin and H. Y. Wu. 1985. Malignant Neoplasms Among Residents of a Blackfoot Disease Endemic Area in Taiwan: High Arsenic Well Water and Cancers. Cancer Research. 45:5895-5899.

Wu, M. M., T. L. Kuo, Y. H. Hwang and C. J. Chen. 1989. Dose-Response Relation Between Arsenic Concentration in Well Water and Mortality From Cancers a Vascular Diseases. American Journal of Epidemiology. 130(6):1123-1132.

Hopenhayn-Rich, C., M. L. Biggs, A. Fuchs, R. Bergoglio, E. E. Tello, H. Nicolli and A. H. Smith. 1996. Bladder Cancer Mortality Associated With Arsenic in Drinking Water in Argentina. Epidemiology. 7(2):117-124.

Hopenhayn-Rich, C., M. L. Biggs and A. H. Smith. 1998. Lung and Kidney Cancer Mortality Associated With Arsenic in Drinking Water in Cordoba, Argentina. Epidemiology. 27:561-569.

Smith, A.H., M. Goycolea, R. Haque and M. L. Biggs. 1998. Marked Increase in Bladder and Lung Cancer Mortality in a Region of Northern Chile Due to Arsenic in Drinking Water. American Journal of Epidemiology. 147(7):660-669.

Lewis, D. R., J. W. Southwick, R. Ouellet-Hellstrom, J. Rench and R. L. Calderon. 1999. Drinking Water Arsenic in Utah: A Cohort Mortality Study . Environmental Health Perspectives. 107(5):359-365.

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. 1998. Draft Toxicological Profile for Arsenic. Prepared for the US Department of Health and Human Services by the Research Triangle Institute.

Yeh, S. 1973. Skin Cancer in Chronic Arsenicism. Human Pathology. 4(4):469-485.

World Health Organization. 1981. Environmental health Criteria 18 Arsenic. United Nations Environmental Programme, International Labour Organisation, and the World Health Organization.

Morris, J.S., M. Schmid, S. Newman, P.J. Scheuer and S. Sherlock. 1974. Arsenic and Noncirrhotic Portal Hypertension. Gastroenterology. 66:86-94.

Lai, M.S., Y.M. Hsueh, C.J. Chien, M.P. Shyu, S.Y. Chen, T. L. Kuo, M.M. Wu, and T. Y. Tai. 1994. Ingested Inorganic Arsenic and Prevalence of Diabetes Mellitus.American Journal of Epidemiology. 139(5):484-492.

U.S. EPA. 1996. Investigator-Initiated Grants on Health Effects of Arsenic. Federal Register. Vol 61, No. 236, p. 64739. December 6, 1996.

Tsai, S.M., T. N. Wang and Y.C. Ko. 1999. Mortality for Certain Diseases in Areas with High Levels of Arsenic in Drinking Water. Archives of Environmental Health. 54(3):186-193.

Kurttio, P, E. Pukkala, H. Kahelin, A. Auvinen, and J. Pekkanen. 1999. Arsenic

Concentrations in Well Water and Risk of Bladder and Kidney Cancer in Finland. Environmental Health Perspectives. 107(9):705-710.

Smith, A.S. 1998. Feasibility of New Epidemiologic Studies of Low Level Arsenic.AWWARF. Winter 1998.

Tice, R., T. Goldsworthy, and G. Moser. 2000. Sodium Arsenite Studies in p53 +/- Mice. AWWARF. Summer 2000.

About the Author

Sherry Odom

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