Chronic health effects in people exposed to arsenic via the drinking water: dose-response relationships in review

Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2004 Aug 1;198(3):243-52. doi: 10.1016/j.taap.2003.10.022.


Chronic arsenic (As) poisoning has become a worldwide public health issue. Most human As exposure occurs from consumption of drinking water containing high amounts of inorganic As (iAs). In this paper, epidemiological studies conducted on the dose-response relationships between iAs exposure via the drinking water and related adverse health effects are reviewed. Before the review, the methods for evaluation of the individual As exposure are summarized and classified into two types, that is, the methods depending on As concentration of the drinking water and the methods depending on biological monitoring for As exposure; certain methods may be applied as optimum As exposure indexes to study dose-response relationship based on various As exposure situation. Chronic effects of iAs exposure via drinking water include skin lesions, neurological effects, hypertension, peripheral vascular disease, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, diabetes mellitus, and malignancies including skin cancer. The skin is quite sensitive to arsenic, and skin lesions are some of the most common and earliest nonmalignant effects related to chronic As exposure. The increase of prevalence in the skin lesions has been observed even at the exposure levels in the range of 0.005-0.01 mg/l As in drinking waters. Skin, lung, bladder, kidney, liver, and uterus are considered as sites As-induced malignancies, and the skin is though to be perhaps the most sensitive site. Prospective studies in large area of endemic As poisoning, like Bangladesh or China, where the rate of malignancies is expected to increase within the next several decades, will help to clarify the dose-response relationship between As exposure levels and adverse health effects with enhanced accuracy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arsenic / analysis
  • Arsenic Poisoning* / epidemiology
  • Arsenic Poisoning* / mortality
  • Arsenic Poisoning* / physiopathology
  • Chronic Disease
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperpigmentation / chemically induced
  • Hyperpigmentation / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Skin Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Skin Diseases / epidemiology
  • Water Pollution, Chemical* / adverse effects
  • Water Pollution, Chemical* / analysis


  • Arsenic