Urine arsenic concentrations and species excretion patterns in American Indian communities over a 10-year period: the Strong Heart Study

Environ Health Perspect. 2009 Sep;117(9):1428-33. doi: 10.1289/ehp.0800509. Epub 2009 May 7.


Background: Arsenic exposure in drinking water disproportionately affects small communities in some U.S. regions, including American Indian communities. In U.S. adults with no seafood intake, median total urine arsenic is 3.4 microg/L.

Objective: We evaluated arsenic exposure and excretion patterns using urine samples collected over 10 years in a random sample of American Indians from Arizona, Oklahoma, and North and South Dakota who participated in a cohort study from 1989 to 1999.

Methods: We measured total urine arsenic and arsenic species [inorganic arsenic (arsenite and arsenate), methylarsonate (MA), dimethylarsinate (DMA), and arsenobetaine] concentrations in 60 participants (three urine samples each, for a total of 180 urine samples) using inductively coupled plasma/mass spectrometry (ICPMS) and high-performance liquid chromatography/ICPMS, respectively.

Results: Median (10th, 90th percentiles) urine concentration for the sum of inorganic arsenic, MA, and DMA at baseline was 7.2 (3.1, 16.9) microg/g creatinine; the median was higher in Arizona (12.5 microg/g), intermediate in the Dakotas (9.1 microg/g), and lower in Oklahoma (4.4 microg/g). The mean percentage distribution of arsenic species over the sum of inorganic and methylated species was 10.6% for inorganic arsenic, 18.4% for MA, and 70.9% for DMA. The intraclass correlation coefficient for three repeated arsenic measurements over a 10-year period was 0.80 for the sum of inorganic and methylated species and 0.64, 0.80, and 0.77 for percent inorganic arsenic, percent MA, and percent DMA, respectively.

Conclusions: This study found low to moderate inorganic arsenic exposure and confirmed long-term constancy in arsenic exposure and urine excretion patterns in American Indians from three U.S. regions over a 10-year period. Our findings support the feasibility of analyzing arsenic species in large population-based studies with stored urine samples.

Keywords: American Indians; Strong Heart Study; analytical chemistry; arsenic; arsenic species; arsenobetaine; exposure assessment; metabolism; mixed-effects models; multilevel analysis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Arsenic / urine*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • United States


  • Arsenic