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Your Environment. Your Health.

Early Exposure to Arsenic Decreases Lung Function in Children

R. Clark Lantz, Ph.D.
University of Arizona
NIEHS Grant P42ES004940

An NIEHS grantee and colleagues report that in utero and early life exposure to arsenic through drinking water was associated with poorer lung function in children. Although several studies have reported more respiratory symptoms and diseases in people highly exposed to arsenic through drinking water, this is one of the first studies to look at early life arsenic exposure and lung function in children.

The researchers assessed the urinary concentrations of inorganic arsenic in 358 healthy children exposed to average arsenic concentrations of 152.13 micrograms per liter from pregnancy until early childhood. The urinary arsenic level among the participants averaged 141.2 micrograms per liter, and only 16.7 percent of the children had a urinary concentration below the national concern level.

The children in the study showed a reduced forced vital capacity — the maximum amount of air a person can expel from the lungs after a maximum inhalation  — that was negatively associated with the percentage of inorganic arsenic. More than 57 percent of the children in the study showed a restrictive spirometric pattern, which indicates how quickly and effectively the lungs can be emptied and filled. The urinary arsenic levels were higher in children with restrictive lung patterns compared to study participants with normal spirometric patterns.

Based on these results, the researchers say that controlling exposure to arsenic during critical early life lung development may be important for reducing deficits in lung function tied to this exposure.

Citation: Recio-Vega R, Gonzalez-Cortes T, Olivas-Calderon E, Lantz RC, Gandolfi AJ, Gonzalez-De Alba C. 2015. In utero and early childhood exposure to arsenic decreases lung function in children. Journal of Applied Toxicology 35:358-366.

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