Intra-individual variation in the metabolism of inorganic arsenic

Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 2002 Oct;75(8):576-80. doi: 10.1007/s00420-002-0361-1. Epub 2002 Jul 9.


Objective: Inorganic arsenic is metabolized to methylarsonic acid (MMA) and dimethylarsinic acid (DMA), which are excreted in the urine. Previous studies have shown a marked inter-individual variation in the metabolism, but the within-person variation is unknown. Therefore, we determined the variation in the relative amount of urinary arsenic metabolites, i.e., inorganic arsenic, MMA and DMA, over time in women living in an Andean village with elevated arsenic levels in drinking water.

Methods: For our investigation of the individual day-to-day variation, daily spot urine samples were collected (at the same time of the day) for 5 consecutive days by 15 women. For our investigation of the within-day variation, seven women collected all the urine voided over a 72-h period, each voided into a separate container.

Results: Repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) revealed no significant day-to-day variation, either in the relative distribution of inorganic arsenic metabolites (inorganic arsenic, MMA and DMA), or in the concentration of the metabolites. However, the percentage of DMA was slightly higher (on average 5.0%; P=0.003) and the percentage of inorganic arsenic lower (on average 5.8%; P=0.001) during the morning/day (03:00-15:00) compared with the evening/night (15:00-03:00). No within-day variation in the percentage of MMA was observed.

Conclusion: The arsenic methylation efficiency of an individual is remarkably stable over time.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arsenicals / metabolism*
  • Arsenicals / urine
  • Cacodylic Acid / urine
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Reference Standards
  • Spectrophotometry, Atomic
  • Sweden
  • Water Supply*


  • Arsenicals
  • Cacodylic Acid
  • monomethylarsonic acid