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J Health Popul Nutr. 2006 Jun;24(2):214-20.

Levels of arsenic in drinking-water and cutaneous lesions in Inner Mongolia.

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Department of Preventive Medicine, School of Public Health, Wenzhou Medical College, China Chashan High Education Area, Wenzhou City, Zhejiang Province 325035, China.


The most common health effects from drinking-water containing dissolved arsenic are skin abnormalities and lesions that are typically diagnosed as keratosis and pigment disorder. It was previously reported that the prevalence of cutaneous lesions was about 44% in arsenic-affected villages. However, there has been little research on the relationship between levels of arsenic in drinking-water and cutaneous lesions in Inner Mongolia. One study examined the association between the prevalence of keratosis and levels of arsenic exposure and the relationship between pigment disorder and levels of arsenic exposure among villagers aged 18 years or older in the arsenic-affected village of Hetao Plain in Inner Mongolia, PR China. The study included 227 participants who were affected by cutaneous lesions and 221 participants who were not affected by cutaneous lesions diagnosed in 1996 and 1998. Well-water drunk by the participants was collected to analyze arsenic content. Adjusting for age, sex, and smoking, logistic regression was applied to calculate the risks that arsenic in drinking-water will lead to cutaneous lesions. The results from the logistic regression showed that, with the increase of arsenic concentration in water, the risk of pigment disorder also increased (odds ratio [OR]=5.25, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.32-83.24 for 50-199 microg/L; OR=10.97, 95% CI 1.50-79.95 for 200-499 [microg/L; OR=10.00, 95% CI 1.39-71.77 for > or = 500 microg/L (p=0.000), but the association between risk of keratosis and levels of arsenic was not significant (p=0.346). The findings suggest that keratosis is an early feature of arsenic poisoning, and the development of pigment disorder depends on higher doses of arsenic intake rather than keratosis. Further studies are needed to confirm that cutaneous lesions and other adverse health effects occur at low levels of arsenic exposure.

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