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Individual damage caused by arsenic

There are major differences in the ability to metabolise arsenic in the body. This applies both to between different populations and at individual level. Some differences can be explained by factors such as age, gender, exposure levels and genetic make-up. This is shown by a doctoral thesis by Anna-Lena Lindberg of Karolinska Institutet.

The studies included two different populations: one from Central Europe (Hungary, Rumania and Slovakia) and one from Bangladesh (the Matlab area). The results show that most people in the Matlab area and a large number of those in certain parts of Hungary are exposed to high contents of arsenic in their drinking water.

There were big differences in metabolic capacity between individuals in both Europe and Bangladesh. In Bangladesh this was partially explainable by the high exposure level. In Europe it was various genetic factors that had the biggest effect. Age, gender and smoking also came into play. Children, for example, metabolised arsenic better than did adults.

"It's important," Anna-Lena Lindberg emphasises," to try and identify sensitive groups of the population so as to reduce the adverse consequences of arsenic exposure. As the factors I have studied can only explain about a fifth of the variation between individuals, there is a great need to proceed with looking for further factors."

Arsenic occurs naturally in drinking water in certain parts of the world, and millions of people are exposed to high contents. It is carcinogenic, can also contribute to diabetes and cardiovascular diseases and can affect the lungs, liver and nervous system. Arsenic is metabolised in the body and is largely eliminated through the urine - in part as monomethylated arsenic (MA) and in part as dimethylated arsenic (DMA), which is the end product.

The these: Factors influencing the metabolism of inorganic arsenic in humans.

For further information please contact:
Anna-Lena Lindberg, MD
Institute of Environmental Medicine, Unit for Metals and Health
Tel: +46 (0)8-524 874 06
Mobil: +46 (0)70-270 95 45
Sabina Bossi, Press Officer
Tel.: +46 (0)8-524 860 66
Mob.: +46 (0)70-614 860 66

Sabina Bossi | idw
Further information:

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