Arsenic exposure from drinking water and QT-interval prolongation: results from the Health Effects of Arsenic Longitudinal Study

Environ Health Perspect. 2013 Apr;121(4):427-32. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1205197. Epub 2013 Feb 5.


Background: Arsenic exposure from drinking water has been associated with heart disease; however, underlying mechanisms are uncertain.

Objective: We evaluated the association between a history of arsenic exposure from drinking water and the prolongation of heart rate-corrected QT (QTc), PR, and QRS intervals.

Method: We conducted a study of 1,715 participants enrolled at baseline from the Health Effects of Arsenic Longitudinal Study. We assessed the relationship of arsenic exposure in well water and urine samples at baseline with parameters of electrocardiogram (ECG) performed during 2005-2010, 5.9 years on average since baseline.

Results: The adjusted odds ratio (OR) for QTc prolongation, defined as a QTc ≥ 450 msec in men and ≥ 460 msec in women, was 1.17 (95% CI: 1.01, 1.35) for a 1-SD increase in well-water arsenic (108.7 µg/L). The positive association appeared to be limited to women, with adjusted ORs of 1.24 (95% CI: 1.05, 1.47) and 1.24 (95% CI: 1.01, 1.53) for a 1-SD increase in baseline well-water and urinary arsenic, respectively, compared with 0.99 (95% CI: 0.73, 1.33) and 0.86 (95% CI: 0.49, 1.51) in men. There were no apparent associations of baseline well-water arsenic or urinary arsenic with PR or QRS prolongation in women or men.

Conclusions: Long-term arsenic exposure from drinking water (average 95 µg/L; range, 0.1-790 µg/L) was associated with subsequent QT-interval prolongation in women. Future longitudinal studies with repeated ECG measurements would be valuable in assessing the influence of changes in exposure.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / chemically induced
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / epidemiology*
  • Arsenic / urine*
  • Bangladesh / epidemiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Drinking Water / analysis*
  • Electrocardiography
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Spectrophotometry, Atomic
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / urine*
  • Young Adult


  • Drinking Water
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Arsenic