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Rev Environ Health. 1999 Oct-Dec;14(4):211-29.

Important considerations in the development of public health advisories for arsenic and arsenic-containing compounds in drinking water.

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NIH-Center for Environmental Health, School of Science and Technology, Jackson State University, Mississippi 39217-0940, USA.


Drinking water contamination by arsenic remains a major public health problem. Acute and chronic arsenic exposure via drinking water has been reported in many countries of the world; especially in Argentina, Bangladesh, India, Mexico, Thailand, and Taiwan, where a large proportion of drinking water (ground water) is contaminated with a high concentration of arsenic. Research has also pointed out significantly higher standardized mortality ratios and cumulative mortality rates for cancers of the bladder, kidney, skin, liver, and colon in many areas of arsenic pollution. General health effects that are associated with arsenic exposure include cardiovascular and peripheral vascular disease, developmental anomalies, neurologic and neurobehavioral disorders, diabetes, hearing loss, portal fibrosis of the liver, lung fibrosis, hematologic disorders (anemia, leukopenia, and eosinophilia), and carcinoma. Although, the clinical manifestations of arsenic poisoning appear similar, the toxicity of arsenic compounds depends largely u[on the chemical species and the form of arsenic involved. On the basis of its high degree of toxicity to humans, and the non-threshold dose-response assumption, a zero level exposure is recommended for arsenic, even though this level is practically non-attainable. In this review, we provide and discuss important information on the physical and chemical properties, production and use, fate and transport, toxicokinetics, systemic and carcinogenic health effects, regulatory and health guidelines, analytical methods, and treatment technologies that are applied to arsenic pollution. Such information is critical in assisting the federal, state and local officials who are responsible for protecting public health in dealing with the problem of drinking water contamination by arsenic and arsenic-containing compounds.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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