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Defending Against Arsenic Exposure
Brought to you from the NEEDS Wellness Team

Low-level exposure to arsenic in drinking water is widespread in the United States. Unfortunately, a recent study out of Dartmouth's Medical School, published in the December issue of Chemical Research in Toxicology, discovered that even low doses of arsenic, such as the amounts currently allowed in drinking water, are having measurable ill-effects on Americans.

Chronic, low-level arsenic exposure (the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed standard ranges from 10 parts per billion [ppb] to the current standard of 50 ppb) can result in the following conditions:
  • Over several years – dark or white skin lesions or keratoses of the hands and feet
  • Over 12 years – skin cancers
  • Over 20-30 years – internal cancers (lung, kidney, liver, and bladder)
  • Also associated with elevated risks of type II diabetes and vascular disease
Research shows that arsenic interferes with and/or suppresses the normal function of different hormone receptors used by the body's glandular system (i.e., adrenal, reproductive, thyroid, etc.) to properly perform a wide range of biological processes, such as blood glucose regulation, vascular function, and cell differentiation.

Although identified as an endocrine disruptor, arsenic's activity is not similar to other categories of endocrine disruptors, as it does not mimic natural hormone activity, nor does it block activity. It does, however, interfere with gene expression.

The study also noted a differentiation in effects depending on arsenic levels. Exposure to low doses (5-50 ppb) enhances hormone-stimulating expression two- to three-fold while exposure to 50-200 ppb has the opposite effect. With these wide-ranging and variable effects, further research on arsenic exposure and expression are warranted.