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Inorganic arsenic compounds: are they carcinogenic, mutagenic, teratogenic?

Abstract

This review examines and evaluates the literature on the ability of inorganic arsenic compounds to cause cancer in humans and laboratory animals. The epidemiological data that supports the position that inorganic arsenical derivatives are carcinogenic in humans is convincing and difficult to deny because of their consistency. These data are from studies of different occupational exposures such as smelter and pesticide workers, as well as from studies of drinking water, wines and medicinal tonics that contained or were contaminated with inorganic compounds of arsenic. Indeed, positive dose-response relationships between cancer incidence or mortality with many inorganic arsenical substances have been shown. Despite the presence of data which confuse the interpretation and evaluation of epidemiological data, associated neoplasms of the lungs, skin and gastrointestinal systems have been observed as a result of exposure to inorganic arsenic compounds.

The mechanism of carcinogenicity of inorganic arsenical substances in humans is unknown. Inorganic arsenic compounds are not carcinogenic in laboratory animals by most routes of administration. However, further studies (subchronic, chronic, carcinogenic) using intratracheal and other conventional routes in other animal species would appear to be warranted. Moreso, especially since there is no evidence that organic arsenic compounds are carcinogenic in numerous mammalian species. Inorganic derivatives of arsenic are not mutagenic but may be teraiogenic. This latter conclusion is dependent on the method of administration and size of the dose, as well as on the species of animal used for the study.

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Correspondence to J. C. Dacre.

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Goldman, M., Dacre, J.C. Inorganic arsenic compounds: are they carcinogenic, mutagenic, teratogenic?. Environ Geochem Health 13, 179–191 (1991). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01758635

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Keywords

  • Arsenic
  • Drinking Water
  • Laboratory Animal
  • Cancer Incidence
  • Epidemiological Data