, Volume 20, Issue 11, pp 8151-8161
Date: 07 May 2013

Prolonged environmental exposure of arsenic through drinking water on the risk of hypertension and type 2 diabetes

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Prolonged exposure to inorganic arsenic has been a severe environmental public health issue worldwide in the recent decades. Increasing evidence has suggested a possible role of prolonged arsenic exposure through drinking water in the development of arsenic-induced chronic noncancer diseases, among which hypertension and type 2 diabetes (T2D) are the focus of concern. Although exposure to high levels of arsenic has been reported to be associated with excess risk of hypertension or T2D in a dose-dependent manner, the association has yet to be established, especially low-level exposure. This cross-sectional study was designed to evaluate the potential association between prolonged environmental arsenic exposure through drinking water and the prevalence of hypertension and T2D in Inner Mongolia, China, with emphasis on the assessment of low-level exposure. In this study (a total of 669 men and women), we found that the blood pressure levels were significantly correlated with cumulative arsenic exposure and that the systolic blood pressure of the subjects with arsenic exposure >50 μg/L was significantly higher than those of the subjects with <10 and 10–50 μg/L exposure. Significant prevalence of hypertension was found in the subjects of the >50 μg/L group both before and after adjustment for confounders. In addition, a significant negative relationship was found between urinary arsenic percentage of dimethylated arsenic (DMA%) and the prevalence of hypertension in the >50 μg/L group. However, low-level arsenic exposure (10–50 μg/L) was not statistically associated with hypertension. No significant difference of blood glucose was found among the groups with different arsenic exposure levels. No statistical association was found between arsenic exposure and T2D. Our findings suggested that prolonged arsenic exposure might play a role in the development of hypertension; however, only high-level arsenic was associated with the risk of hypertension. Our findings also indicated that lower DMA% might be related with the increased susceptibility of arsenic-induced hypertension.

Responsible editor: Philippe Garrigues