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Rev Environ Health. 2014;29(1-2):13-9. doi: 10.1515/reveh-2014-0007.

Health hazards and mitigation of chronic poisoning from arsenic in drinking water: Taiwan experiences.


There are two endemic areas of long-term exposure to arsenic from drinking water in Taiwan. Residents in the southwestern and northeastern endemic areas started using high-arsenic artesian well water in the early 1910s and late 1940s, respectively. Public water supply system using surface water was implemented in southwestern and northeastern endemic areas in the 1970s and 1990s, respectively. Systemic health hazards of long-term exposure to arsenic in drinking water have been intensively investigated since the 1960s, especially after 1985 in Taiwan. Several diseases have been well documented to be associated with chronic arsenic poisoning from drinking water showing a dose-response relation. They include characteristic skin lesions like hyperpigmentation or depigmentation, hyperkeratosis in palms and soles, and Bowen disease, peripheral vascular disease (specifically blackfoot disease), ischemic heart disease, cerebral infarction, microvascular diseases, abnormal peripheral microcirculation, carotid atherosclerosis, QT prolongation and increased dispersion in electrocardiography, hypertension, goiter, diabetes mellitus, cataract (specifically posterior subcapsular lens opacity), pterygium, slow neural conduction, retarded neurobehavioral development, erectile dysfunction, and cancers of the skin, lung, urinary bladder, kidney, and liver. The method of choice to mitigate arsenic poisoning through drinking water is to use safe drinking water from uncontaminated sources.

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