Health Effects of Arsenic and Chromium in Drinking Water: Recent Human Findings

Posted: 4 Jun 2009

See all articles by Allen H. Smith

Allen H. Smith

University of California, Berkeley - School of Public Health

Craig M. Steinmaus

University of California, Berkeley - School of Public Health

Date Written: June 4, 2009

Abstract

Even at high concentrations, arsenic-contaminated water is translucent, tasteless, and odorless. Yet almost every day, studies report a continually increasing plethora of toxic effects that have manifested in exposed populations throughout the world. In this article we focus on recent findings, in particular those associated with major contributions since 2006. Early life exposure, both in utero and in childhood, has been receiving increased attention, and remarkable increases in consequent mortality in young adults have been reported. New studies address the dose-response relationship between drinking-water arsenic concentrations and skin lesions, and new findings have emerged concerning arsenic and cardiovascular disease. We also review the increasing epidemiological evidence that the first step of methylation of inorganic arsenic to monomethylated arsenic (MMA) is actually an activation step rather than the first step in detoxification, as once thought. Hexavalent chromium differs from arsenic in that it discolors water, turning the water yellow at high concentrations. A controversial issue is whether chromium causes cancer when ingested. A recent publication supports the original findings in China of increased cancer mortality in a population where well water turned yellow with chromium.

Keywords: early life exposure, skin lesions, childhood cancer, methylation

Suggested Citation

Smith, Allen H. and Steinmaus, Craig M., Health Effects of Arsenic and Chromium in Drinking Water: Recent Human Findings (June 4, 2009). Annual Review of Public Health, Vol. 30, April 2009, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1414409

Allen H. Smith (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - School of Public Health ( email )

50 University Hall #7360
Berkeley, CA 94720-7360
United States

Craig M. Steinmaus

University of California, Berkeley - School of Public Health ( email )

50 University Hall #7360
Berkeley, CA 94720-7360
United States

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