Blood arsenic as a biomarker of arsenic exposure: results from a prospective study

Toxicology. 2006 Aug 15;225(2-3):225-33. doi: 10.1016/j.tox.2006.06.010. Epub 2006 Jun 18.


Exposure to arsenic (As)-contaminated drinking water affects millions of people worldwide. Arsenic exposure is associated with skin lesions, skin, lung, kidney and liver cancers, neurologic and cardiovascular effects. Past studies involving biomarkers of As exposure have typically examined urinary As (UAs) (adjusted for urinary creatinine), hair or toenail As, but not blood As (BAs) since blood concentrations are exceedingly low and are not detectable by conventional atomic absorption spectrophotometric techniques. In a case-cohort analysis of 303 newly diagnosed cases of skin lesions, and 849 subcohort members randomly selected from 8092 participants in the health effects of as longitudinal study (HEALS) in Araihazar, Bangladesh, we measured blood, urine and water As concentrations, and examined their associations with each other, and with the risk for skin lesions. BAs concentrations were highly correlated with creatinine-adjusted UAs concentrations (r=0.85) and with water As (WAs) (r=0.75). We observed consistent dose-response relationships between the risk of skin lesions and all the measures of As exposure. Rate ratios (RRs) for skin lesions by quintile of As exposure, adjusted for age and gender, revealed that the two highest quintiles were significantly related to an increased risk of skin lesions for each measure of exposure: BAs, UAs, WAs and a time-weighted water As variable. This prospective study confirms the increased risk of skin lesions in relation to As concentrations in blood, urine and water and also establishes that BAs is a useful biomarker of As exposure in this study population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arsenic / blood
  • Arsenic / urine
  • Arsenic Poisoning / blood*
  • Arsenic Poisoning / epidemiology
  • Bangladesh / epidemiology
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Environmental Monitoring*
  • Epidemiological Monitoring
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Skin Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Skin Diseases / epidemiology
  • Water Supply / analysis*


  • Biomarkers
  • Arsenic