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Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2002 Oct;36(2):162-74.

Arsenic, drinking water, and health: a position paper of the American Council on Science and Health.

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Kbinc, Chapel hill, North Carolina 27516, USA.


The purpose of this American Council on Science and Health report is to review issues and sources of uncertainty affecting assessment of potential health risks related to drinking water in the United States. Some background is included on how these issues arose, as is a review of the 1999 National Research Council report (with references to an updated version), to formulate a position based on the current science concerning how much of a risk of adverse health effects actually exists from arsenic in drinking water in the United States. ACSH concludes that there is clear evidence that chronic exposure to inorganic arsenic at concentrations of at least several hundred micrograms per liter may cause: (1) cancer of skin, bladder, lung (and possibly several other internal organs, including kidney, liver, and prostate), and (2) noncancer effects, including classic cutaneous manifestations that are distinctive and characteristic of chronic arsenic poisoning (diffuse or spotted hyperpigmentation and palmar-plantar hyperkeratoses). Noncancer effects may be multisystemic, with some evidence of peripheral vascular, cardiovascular, and cerebrovascular disease, diabetes, and adverse reproductive outcomes. Further study is needed to know if beneficial effects of arsenic in animal studies apply to humans. ACSH concludes that there is little, if any, evidence of a detrimental health effect in humans from inorganic arsenic in drinking water at the current maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 50 microg/L or below, either in the United States or elsewhere. As noted in the 1999 NRC report, "No human studies of sufficient statistical power or scope have examined whether consumption of arsenic in drinking water at the current MCL results in an increased incidence of cancer or noncancer effects" (NRC, 1999, p. 7). Based on our review, described in this article, ACSH finds that the limitations of the epidemiological data available and the state-of-the-science on the mode-of-action of arsenic toxicity, including can cer, are inadequate to support the conclusion that there are adverse health effects in the United States from arsenic in drinking water at or below the limit of 50 microg/L.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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