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J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2014 Mar-Apr;24(2):150-5. doi: 10.1038/jes.2013.35. Epub 2013 Jul 10.

Environmental arsenic exposure, selenium and sputum alpha-1 antitrypsin.

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Division of Community, Environment and Policy, Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, USA.
Institute of Analytical Chemistry, Danish University of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Copenhagen, Denmark.


Exposure to arsenic in drinking water is associated with increased respiratory disease. Alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) protects the lung against tissue destruction. The objective of this study was to determine whether arsenic exposure is associated with changes in airway AAT concentration and whether this relationship is modified by selenium. A total of 55 subjects were evaluated in Ajo and Tucson, Arizona. Tap water and first morning void urine were analyzed for arsenic species, induced sputum for AAT and toenails for selenium and arsenic. Household tap-water arsenic, toenail arsenic and urinary inorganic arsenic and metabolites were significantly higher in Ajo (20.6±3.5 μg/l, 0.54±0.77 μg/g and 27.7±21.2 μg/l, respectively) than in Tucson (3.9±2.5 μg/l, 0.16±0.20 μg/g and 13.0±13.8 μg/l, respectively). In multivariable models, urinary monomethylarsonic acid (MMA) was negatively, and toenail selenium positively associated with sputum AAT (P=0.004 and P=0.002, respectively). In analyses stratified by town, these relationships remained significant only in Ajo, with the higher arsenic exposure. Reduction in AAT may be a means by which arsenic induces respiratory disease, and selenium may protect against this adverse effect.

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