The Broad Scope of Health Effects From Chronic Arsenic Exposure

Update on a Worldwide Public Health Problem

Marisa F. Naujokas; Beth Anderson; Habibul Ahsan; H. Vasken Aposhian; Joseph H. Graziano; Claudia Thompson; William A. Suk


Environ Health Perspect. 2013;121(3):295-302. 

In This Article


Environmental health issues are not limited to toxic waste sites and poisoning events: some deleterious exposures come from naturally occurring substances, such as arsenic often found in drinking water. Arsenic affects multiple biological systems, sometimes years or decades after exposure reductions. Studies that reveal the complex nature of the origins and toxicity of arsenic highlight the importance of heightened awareness of arsenic-related health effects in broader contexts than previously perceived. In spite of current efforts, over 200 million persons globally are at risk of arsenic exposure at levels of concern for human health. Although specific regulatory levels might be debatable, all would agree that minimizing arsenic exposure is the best solution, especially prenatal and early-life exposure. Therefore, testing drinking water for arsenic is particularly important for pregnant women and women of childbearing age, given the potential for neurological and other lifelong effects of early-life exposure. The return on the investment can be substantial when measured in the reduced incidence of chronic disease and reduced rates of cancer worldwide.