Low-Level Arsenic Exposure and Developmental Neurotoxicity in Children: A Systematic Review and Risk Assessment

The Journal of Toxicology

September 18, 2015

Dr. Joyce Tsuji, Dr. Michael Garry, and Dr. Ellen Chang published "Low-Level Arsenic Exposure and Developmental Neurotoxicity in Children: A Systematic Review and Risk Assessment," in The Journal of Toxicology.

Risk assessments of arsenic have focused on skin, bladder, and lung cancers and skin lesions as the sensitive cancer and non-cancer health endpoints, respectively; however, an increasing number of epidemiologic studies that can inform risk assessment have examined neurodevelopmental effects in children.

We conducted a systematic review and risk assessment based on the epidemiologic literature on possible neurodevelopmental effects at lower arsenic exposures. Twenty-four cross-sectional, case-control, and cohort studies were identified that report on the association between low-level arsenic exposure (i.e., largely <100 μg/L of arsenic in drinking water) and neurological outcomes in children.

Although the overall evidence does not consistently show a causal dose-response relationship at low doses, the most rigorously conducted studies from Bangladesh indicate possible inverse associations with cognitive function, predominantly involving concurrent arsenic exposure as measured by biomarkers (i.e., arsenic in urine or blood) and raw verbal test scores at ages 5-11 years.

Issues such as non-comparability of outcome measures across studies; inaccuracies of biomarkers and other measures of inorganic arsenic exposure; potential effect modification by cultural practices; insufficient adjustment for nutritional deficiencies, maternal IQ, and other important confounders; and presence of other neurotoxicants in foreign populations limit generalizability to U.S.

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