Water Dilutes and Alcohol Concentrates Urinary Arsenic Species When Food is the Dominant Source of Exposure

  • Natalia V. de MoraesEmail author
  • Manus Carey
  • Charlotte E. Neville
  • Sharon Cruise
  • Bernadette McGuinness
  • Frank Kee
  • Ian S. Young
  • Jayne V. Woodside
  • Andrew A. Meharg
Original Paper


Exposure to certain arsenic (As) species has been associated with increased cancer risk and a wide range of other health concerns, even at low levels. Here we used urine as a biomarker of As internal dose in a well-characterized cohort to relate diet, demographics and geography to exposure. As speciation in spot urine samples was determined for 89 participants aged ≥ 50 years from the Northern Ireland Cohort for the Longitudinal Study of Ageing (NICOLA), stratified to cover the country. Principal component analysis showed that all As species clustered together, suggesting that arsenobetaine, inorganic As (iAs) and the methylated species monomethylarsonic acid and dimethylarsinic acid forms have a common source. Seafood and alcohol consumption were positively correlated with As species, while dairy products (i.e. milk) and tap water were negatively correlated. Multiple regression analysis showed that diet explained approximately 30% of the variability in urinary iAs concentrations. Geography was not found to be a predictor of As exposure. Dairy consumption was negatively correlated and the best predictor of iAs in urine, explaining 15.9% of the variability. The majority of the variation in As biomarkers was not explained, suggesting the contribution of other sources and other non-predicted variables on As metabolism and elimination.


Arsenic Diet Metabolism Speciation Urine 



We are grateful to all the participants of the NICOLA, and the whole NICOLA Team, which includes nursing staff, research scientists, clerical staff, computer and laboratory technicians, managers and receptionists. The Atlantic Philanthropies, the Economic and Social Research Council, the UKCRC Centre of Excellence for Public Health Northern Ireland, the Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland, the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, the Health and Social Care Research and Development Division of the Public Health Agency, the Wellcome Trust/Wolfson Foundation and Queen’s University Belfast provide core financial support for NICOLA. The authors alone are responsible for the interpretation of the data and any views or opinions presented are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the NICOLA Study Team.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

12403_2019_329_MOESM1_ESM.docx (398 kb)
Supplementary file1 (DOCX 397 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Global Food SecurityQueen’s University BelfastBelfastNorthern Ireland, UK
  2. 2.Centre for Public HealthQueen’s University BelfastBelfastNorthern Ireland, UK
  3. 3.Department of Natural Products and Toxicology, School of Pharmaceutical SciencesSão Paulo State University (UNESP)AraraquaraBrazil

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