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Cross-sectional associations between drinking water arsenic and urinary inorganic arsenic in the US: NHANES 2003-2014

March 24, 2023

Background: Inorganic arsenic is a potent carcinogen and toxicant associated with numerous adverse health outcomes. The contribution of drinking water from private wells and regulated community water systems (CWSs) to total inorganic arsenic exposure is not clear.

Objectives: To determine the association between drinking water arsenic estimates and urinary arsenic concentrations in the 2003-2014 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

Methods: We evaluated 11,088 participants from the 2003-2014 NHANES cycles. For each participant, we assigned private well and CWS arsenic levels according to county of residence using estimates previously derived by the US Environmental Protection Agency and US Geological Survey. We used recalibrated urinary dimethylarsinate (rDMA) to reflect the internal dose of estimated water arsenic by applying a previously validated, residual-based method that removes the contribution of dietary arsenic sources. We compared the adjusted geometric mean ratios and corresponding percent change of urinary rDMA across tertiles of private well and CWS arsenic levels, with the lowest tertile as the reference. Comparisons were made overall and stratified by census region and race/ethnicity.

Results: Overall, the geometric mean of urinary rDMA was 2.52 (2.30, 2.77) µg/L among private well users and 2.64 (2.57, 2.72) µg/L among CWS users. Urinary rDMA was highest among participants in the West and South, and among Mexican American, Other Hispanic, and Non-Hispanic Other participants. Urinary rDMA levels were 25% (95% CI: 17-34%) and 20% (95% CI: 12-29%) higher comparing the highest to the lowest tertile of CWS and private well arsenic, respectively. The strongest associations between water arsenic and urinary rDMA were observed among participants in the South, West, and among Mexican American and Non-Hispanic White and Black participants.

Discussion: Both private wells and regulated CWSs are associated with inorganic arsenic internal dose as reflected in urine in the general US population.

Publication Year 2023
Title Cross-sectional associations between drinking water arsenic and urinary inorganic arsenic in the US: NHANES 2003-2014
DOI 10.1016/j.envres.2023.115741
Authors Maya Spaur, Melissa Lombard, Joseph D. Ayotte, Benjamin C. Bostick, Steven N. Chillrud, Ana Navas-Acien, Anne E. Nigra
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Environmental Research
Index ID 70241597
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization New England Water Science Center