, Volume 53, Issue 4, pp 667-677
Date: 19 Sep 2007

Effects of Subchronic Exposure via Drinking Water to a Mixture of Eight Water-Contaminating Metals: A Biochemical and Histopathological Study in Male Rats

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In the current study, we examined whether subchronic exposure via drinking water to low doses of a mixture of metals (arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, chromium, manganese, iron, and nickel), found as contaminants in various water sources of India, and to concentrations equivalent to WHO maximum permissible limits (MPL) in drinking water for individual metals, can alter systemic physiology of male rats. Data on water contamination with metals in India were collected from the literature and metals were selected on the basis of their frequency of occurrence and contamination level above MPL. Male Wistar rats were exposed to the mixture at 0, 1, 10, and 100 times the mode concentrations (the most frequently occurring concentration) of the individual metals via drinking water for 90 days. One more group of rats was exposed to the mixture at a concentration equivalent to the MPL (WHO) in drinking water for individual metals. Toxic potential of the mixture was evaluated by assessing general toxicological end points, serum chemistry and histopathology of vital organs. The mixture decreased body weight and water consumption and increased weights of brain, liver, and kidneys with 10× and 100× doses. After 30 days of exposure, no appreciable changes were found in any blood clinical markers. After 60 days, only the 100× dose, while after 90 days both 10× and 100× doses increased activities of aspartate aminotransferase and alkaline phosphatase and levels of urea nitrogen and creatinine and decreased total protein and albumin levels, but alanine aminotransferase activity and glucose level were not affected. At 10× and 100× exposure levels, qualitatively similar, but dose-dependent vascular, degenerative, and necrotic changes were observed in brain, liver, and kidney. The results indicate that subchronic exposure to the metal mixture affected general health of male rats by altering the functional and structural integrity of kidney, liver, and brain at 10 and 100 times the mode concentrations of the individual metals in Indian water sources, but exposure at mode concentrations of contemporary water contamination levels or at concentrations equivalent to the MPL for individual metals in drinking water may not cause any health hazards in male rats.