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Environ Res. 2013 Oct;126:134-44. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2013.04.004. Epub 2013 Jun 15.

Biological and behavioral factors modify biomarkers of arsenic exposure in a U.S. population.

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  • 1Environmental Public Health Division, National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, Office of Research and Development, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709, USA.


Although consumption of drinking water contaminated with inorganic arsenic is usually considered the primary exposure route, aggregate exposure to arsenic depends on direct consumption of water, use of water in food preparation, and the presence in arsenicals in foods. To gain insight into the effects of biological and behavioral factors on arsenic exposure, we determined arsenic concentrations in urine and toenails in a U.S. population that uses public or private water supplies containing inorganic arsenic. Study participants were 904 adult residents of Churchill County, Nevada, whose home tap water supplies contained <3 to about 1200 µg of arsenic per liter. Biomarkers of exposure for this study were summed urinary concentrations of inorganic arsenic and its methylated metabolites (speciated arsenical), of all urinary arsenicals (total arsenical), and of all toenail arsenicals (total arsenical). Increased tap water arsenic concentration and consumption were associated with significant upward trends for urinary speciated and total and toenail total arsenical concentrations. Significant gender differences in concentrations of speciated and total arsenicals in urine and toenails reflected male-female difference in water intake. Both recent and higher habitual seafood consumption significantly increased urinary total but not speciated arsenical concentration. In a stepwise general linear model, seafood consumption significantly predicted urinary total arsenical but not urinary speciated or toenail total arsenical concentrations. Smoking behavior significantly predicted urinary speciated or total arsenical concentration. Gender, tap water arsenic concentration, and primary drinking water source significantly predicted urinary speciated and total concentrations and toenail total arsenical concentrations. These findings confirm the primacy of home tap water as a determinant of arsenic concentration in urine and toenails. However, biological and behavioral factors can modify exposure-response relations for these biomarkers. Refining estimates of the influence of these factors will permit better models of dose-response relations for this important environmental contaminant.

Published by Elsevier Inc.


(in order of occurrence)—Inorganic arsenic; ANOVA; Arsenic; Biomarker; DMAs(V); Drinking water; Exposure; FMV; ICP–MS; IQR; MAs(V); MCL; NAA; NTAs; NTU; Seafood; TAs; USAs; UTAs; United States; analysis of variance; arsenate; arsenite; dimethylarsinic acid; first morning void; iAs; iAs(III); iAs(V); inductively coupled plasma–mass spectrometry; interquartile range; maximum contaminant level; methylarsonic acid; nephelometric turbidity unit; neutron activation analysis; total arsenic; total arsenic in toenails; total arsenic in urine; urinary speciated arsenic

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