Arsenic exposure and its impact on health in Chile

J Health Popul Nutr. 2006 Jun;24(2):164-75.


The problem of arsenic in Chile was reviewed. In Chile, the population is exposed to arsenic naturally via drinking-water and by air pollution resulted from mining activities. The sources of arsenic were identified to estimate the exposure of population to arsenic through air, water, and food. Health effects, particularly early effects, observed in children and adults, such as vascular diseases (premature cardiac infarct), respiratory illnesses (bronchiectasis), and skin lesions have been described. Chronic effects, such as lung and bladder cancers, were reported 20 years after peak exposure and persisted 27 years after mitigation measures for removing arsenic from drinking surface water were initiated. Although the effects of arsenic are similar in different ethnic and cultural groups (e.g. Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Bangladeshi, American, and Taiwanese), variations could be explained by age at exposure, the dose received, smoking, and nutrition. Since health effects were observed at arsenic levels of 50 microg/L in drinking-water, it is advised that Chile follows the World Health Organization's recommendation of 10 microg/L. The Chilean experience in removal of arsenic suggests that it is feasible to reach this level using the conventional coagulation process.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arsenic / adverse effects*
  • Arsenic / analysis
  • Arsenic Poisoning / epidemiology*
  • Arsenic Poisoning / etiology*
  • Arsenic Poisoning / prevention & control
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / chemically induced
  • Cause of Death
  • Chile / epidemiology
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cocarcinogenesis
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Epidemiological Monitoring
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Health Status*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Maximum Allowable Concentration
  • Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Nutritional Status
  • Politics
  • Population Surveillance
  • Public Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / chemically induced
  • Risk Factors
  • Skin Diseases / chemically induced
  • Smoking / adverse effects


  • Arsenic