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J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2013 Mar;23(2):156-62. doi: 10.1038/jes.2012.91. Epub 2012 Sep 19.

Arsenic-induced toxicity and carcinogenicity: a two-wave cross-sectional study in arsenicosis individuals in West Bengal, India.

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  • 1Molecular and Human Genetics Division, Indian Institute of Chemical Biology (A Unit of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, New Delhi), 4 Raja S. C. Mullick Road, Jadavpur, Kolkata, India.


In the state of West Bengal in India, over 26 million individuals are exposed to arsenic via drinking water. Dermatological, non-dermatological disorders and cancers are associated with arsenic toxicity. Of late, there has been a decrease in the arsenic concentration in drinking water owing to governmental efforts, raising the possibility of remediation. A cross-sectional study was conducted, where 189 arsenicosis and 171 unexposed individuals were recruited at two time points, (2005-06 and 2010-11) with concomitant decrease in the level of arsenic exposure via drinking water in the arsenicosis group in 2010-11. Parameters studied included dermatological, non-dermatological health status and cytogenetic damage. Decrease of arsenic exposure (190.1 μg/l to 37.94 μg/l) resulted in significant decline in the number of individuals having dermatological disorders (P<0.01) and in the severity of each dermatological outcome (P<0.0001). Micronucleus formation in urothelial cells and lymphocytes decreased significantly (P<0.001). However, there was a significant (P<0.001) rise in the incidence of each of the non-dermatological diseases, that is, peripheral neuropathy, conjunctivitis and respiratory distress over the period. Thirteen (6.87%) of the initially recruited arsenicosis individuals died of cancer, in this period. Remediation by arsenic-safe drinking water can reduce dermatological manifestations and cytogenetic insult; but is unable to counter the non-dermatological symptoms.

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