Urinary arsenic species, toenail arsenic, and arsenic intake estimates in a Michigan population with low levels of arsenic in drinking water

J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2012 Mar-Apr;22(2):182-90. doi: 10.1038/jes.2011.27. Epub 2011 Aug 31.


The large disparity between arsenic concentrations in drinking water and urine remains unexplained. This study aims to evaluate predictors of urinary arsenic in a population exposed to low concentrations (≤50 μg/l) of arsenic in drinking water. Urine and drinking water samples were collected from a subsample (n=343) of a population enrolled in a bladder cancer case-control study in southeastern Michigan. Total arsenic in water and arsenic species in urine were determined using ICP-MS: arsenobetaine (AsB), arsenite (As[III]), arsenate (As[V]), methylarsenic acid (MMA[V]), and dimethylarsenic acid (DMA[V]). The sum of As[III], As[V], MMA[V], and DMA[V] was denoted as SumAs. Dietary information was obtained through a self-reported food intake questionnaire. Log(10)-transformed drinking water arsenic concentration at home was a significant (P<0.0001) predictor of SumAs (R(2)=0.18). Associations improved (R(2)=0.29, P<0.0001) when individuals with less than 1 μg/l of arsenic in drinking water were removed and further improved when analyses were applied to individuals who consumed amounts of home drinking water above the median volume (R(2)=0.40, P<0.0001). A separate analysis indicated that AsB and DMA[V] were significantly correlated with fish and shellfish consumption, which may suggest that seafood intake influences DMA[V] excretion. The Spearman correlation between arsenic concentration in toenails and SumAs was 0.36 and between arsenic concentration in toenails and arsenic concentration in water was 0.42. Results show that arsenic exposure from drinking water consumption is an important determinant of urinary arsenic concentrations, even in a population exposed to relatively low levels of arsenic in drinking water, and suggest that seafood intake may influence urinary DMA[V] concentrations.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Arsenic / administration & dosage
  • Arsenic / analysis
  • Arsenic / urine*
  • Arsenicals / administration & dosage
  • Arsenicals / analysis
  • Arsenicals / urine*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Diet
  • Drinking Water / analysis
  • Drinking Water / chemistry*
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Female
  • Food Analysis
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Michigan
  • Middle Aged
  • Nails / chemistry
  • Registries
  • Regression Analysis
  • Seafood / analysis
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms


  • Arsenicals
  • Drinking Water
  • Arsenic