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.