Bangladesh has high well water arsenic exposure. Chronic arsenic ingestion may result in diseases that manifest as dyspnoea, although information is sparse. Baseline values were obtained from an arsenic study. Trained physicians ascertained data on dyspnoea among 11,746 subjects. Data were collected on demographic factors, including smoking, blood pressure and arsenic exposure. Logistic regression models estimated odds ratios and confidence intervals for the association between arsenic exposure and dyspnoea. The adjusted odds of having dyspnoea was 1.32-fold (95% CI 1.15-1.52) greater in those exposed to high well water arsenic concentrations (≥ 50 μg · L(-1)) compared with low-arsenic-exposed nonsmokers (p<0.01). A significant dose-response relationship was found for arsenic (as well as smoking) in relation to dyspnoea. In nonsmokers, the adjusted odds of having dyspnoea were 1.36, 1.96, 2.34 and 1.80-fold greater for arsenic concentrations of 7-38, 39-90, 91-178 and 179-864 μg · L(-1), respectively, compared with the reference arsenic concentration of <7 μg · L(-1) (p<0.01; Chi-squared test for trend). Arsenic exposure through well water is associated with dyspnoea, independently of smoking status. This study suggests that mandated well water testing for arsenic with reduction in exposure may significantly reduce diseases that manifest as dyspnoea, usually cardiac or pulmonary.