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Environ Health Perspect. 2012 Dec;120(12):1733-8. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1205381. Epub 2012 Oct 10.

Arsenic reduction in drinking water and improvement in skin lesions: a follow-up study in Bangladesh.

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1
Department of Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Chronic exposure to arsenic is associated with skin lesions. However, it is not known whether reducing arsenic exposure will improve skin lesions.

OBJECTIVE:

We evaluated the association between reduced arsenic exposures and skin lesion recovery over time.

METHODS:

A follow-up study of 550 individuals was conducted in 2009-2011 on a baseline population of skin lesion cases (n = 900) previously enrolled in Bangladesh in 2001-2003. Arsenic in drinking water and toenails, and skin lesion status and severity were ascertained at baseline and follow-up. We used logistic regression and generalized estimating equation (GEE) models to evaluate the association between log10-transformed arsenic exposure and skin lesion persistence and severity.

RESULTS:

During the study period, water arsenic concentrations decreased in this population by 41% overall, and 65 individuals who had skin lesions at baseline had no identifiable lesions at follow-up. In the adjusted models, every log10 decrease in water arsenic and toenail arsenic was associated with 22% [odds ratio (OR) = 1.22; 95% CI: 0.85, 1.78] and 4.5 times (OR = 4.49; 95% CI: 1.94, 11.1) relative increase in skin lesion recovery, respectively. In addition, lower baseline arsenic levels were significantly associated with increased odds of recovery. A log10 decrease in toenail arsenic from baseline to follow-up was also significantly associated with reduced skin lesion severity in cases over time (mean score change of -5.22 units; 95% CI: -8.61, -1.82).

CONCLUSIONS:

Reducing arsenic exposure increased the odds that an individual with skin lesions would recover or show less severe lesions within 10 years. Reducing arsenic exposure must remain a public health priority in Bangladesh and in other regions affected by arsenic-contaminated water.

PMID:
23060367
PMCID:
PMC3548283
DOI:
10.1289/ehp.1205381
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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