Date: 09 Aug 2006

Individual lifetime exposure to inorganic arsenic using a space–time information system

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A space–time information system (STIS) based method is introduced for calculating individual-level estimates of inorganic arsenic exposure over the adult life-course. STIS enables visualization and analysis of space–time data, overcoming some of the constraints inherent to spatial-only Geographic Information System software. The power of this new methodology is demonstrated using data from southeastern Michigan where 8% of the population is exposed to arsenic >10 μg/l (the World Health Organization guideline) in home drinking water.


Participants (N=440) are members of a control group in a population-based bladder cancer case–control study in southeastern Michigan and were recruited by phone using random digit dialing. Water samples were collected and analyzed for arsenic at current residence and participants were required to answer questions concerning lifetime mobility history and dietary habits. Inorganic arsenic concentrations were estimated at past residences and workplaces, and in select foods. Fluid and food consumption data were integrated with mobility histories and arsenic concentrations to calculate continuous estimates of inorganic arsenic intake over the adult life-course.


Estimates of continuous arsenic exposure are displayed, making use of both participant age and calendar year as measures of time. Results illustrate considerable temporal variability in individual-level exposure, with 26% of the participants experiencing a change in drinking water arsenic concentration of at least ±10 μg/l over their adult lives. The average cumulative intake over the adult life-course ranges from 2.53×104–1.30×105 μg, depending on the selected exposure metric.


The STIS-based exposure assessment method allows for flexible inclusion of different parameters or alternative formulations of those parameters, thus enabling the calculation of different exposure metrics. This flexibility is particularly useful when additional exposure routes are considered, input datasets are updated, or when a scientific consensus does not exist regarding the proper formulation of the exposure metric. These results demonstrate the potential of STIS as a useful tool for calculating continuous estimates of adult lifetime exposure to arsenic or other environmental contaminants for application in exposure and risk assessment.