Adverse Health Effects in Children due to Arsenic Exposure, B. Windham(Ed.)
Arsenic, like most of the other metals has been found in studies to be associated with neurologic, vascular, dermatologic, immune, endocrine(diabetes) and carcinogenic effects, along with reproductive effects (24,25,26,1b,3,16,18,20,etc.); and according to U.S. DOH affects more people than any other toxic substance(1a). Long-term exposure to ingested arsenic has been documented to induce peripheral vascular disease, cartoid arteriosclerosis, ischemic heart disease, and cerebral infarction in a dose-response relationship(24a,1b). A comparison of areas with higher levels of arsenic in the water supply found higher fetal and infant mortality in areas with higher arsenic levels and higher cancer rates. Some of the developmental effects documented to be caused by low level toxic metal exposure include developmental delays, growth problems, slower reaction times, diminished intellectual ability, behavior problems, poor balance and motor function, hearing loss, attention deficit disorder, peripheral neuropathy, etc.(19,30,24,25,26,1b,16,18,etc.)
According to an EPA/ATSDR assessment, the toxic metals lead, mercury, and arsenic are the top 3 toxics having the most adverse health effects on the public based on toxicity and current exposure levels in the U.S.(1), with cadmium, chromium and nickel also highly listed. Water, soils, and shellfish are common sources of exposure(3), but the most common and significant exposure to children is from pressure treated lumber in playgrounds and patios(2,4). Renee Sharp, principal author of a recent study involving tests of children stated that the study found that: "In two weeks, an average five-year-old playing on an arsenic-treated playset would exceed the lifetime cancer risk considered acceptable under federal pesticide law." (2) In recent months, dozens of public playgrounds in Florida have been closed after detection of high levels of arsenic. Some case histories of children with arsenic related neurological conditions with exposure mostly through treated lumber are found in (18). Eating chicken has also been found to be a significant source of arsenic exposure, since farmers feed arsenic to chickens and pigs to prevent parasites that are prevelant in crowded conditions(22).
Many similar studies measuring child hair levels of the toxic metals aluminum, arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury have found that these toxic metals have significant effects on learning ability and cognitive performance, explaining as much as 20 % of cognitive differences among randomly tested children who have low levels of exposure not exceeding health guidelines for exposure to any of these metals(6-15,17,19). These toxic metals have been found to have synergistic negative effects on childhood development and cognitive ability(8,13-15,21).
These toxic metals have also been found to have significant effects on motor-visual ability and performance(6a,8,19,20,30), as measured by the Bender Visual-Motor Gestalt Test score. Arsenic, lead, and cadmium levels had the highest correlation with cognitive scores, while aluminum had a significant relation mostly with motor-visual performance and mercury had lesser but highly significant correlations to both. A combined hair level score for mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium and aluminum was found to be significantly related to increased scores on the WPBIC subscales measuring acting-out, disturbed peer relations, immaturity, and the total score(6) among a population of students with no known acute exposures.
Chronic exposure to arsenic at very low levels(below 10 parts per billion) have been found to cause cancer by a review by the National Academy of Sciences(23) and other studies(2,5). Two industry funded studies supported causality of cancer in workers(5). The first concluded that arsenic exposure was related to an increased risk of respiratory cancer in Tacoma Smelter workers in every category of exposure(5a). The second study, conducted by University of Michigan scientists, confirmed a previously established relationship between arsenic exposure and lung cancer in Anaconda Smelter workers(5b). A Univ. of Washington study found that those with significant arsenic exposure have more than double the normal incidence of Parkinson's(27).
Common sources of arsenic include wood preservatives(2), antibiotics given to commercial livestock, air pollution, chemical processing, coal-fired power plants, defoliants, drinking water, drying agents for cotton, fish and shellfish, herbicides, insecticides, meats (from commercially raised poultry and cattle), metal ore smelting, pesticides, seafood (fish, mussels, oysters), and specialty glass.
(1)(a)ATSDR/EPA Priority List for 2003: Top 20 Hazardous Substances, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.atsdr.cdc.gov/clist.html; &
(b) ATSDR, 2000, Toxicological Profile for Arsenic. www.atsdr.cdc.gov/
(2) Poisoned Playgrounds EWG and the Healthy Building Network (HBN) www.ewg.org/reports/poisonedplaygrounds/capr.html
(3) U.S. EPA , Fact Sheet: Drinking Water Standard for Arsenic, EPA 815-F-00-015, January 2001
www.epa.gov/safewater/ars/ars_rule_factsheet.html; & EPA Urges Tighter Rules For Arsenic: Report Raises Agency Concern About Drinking Water Limits; By Eric Pianin, Washington Post, Tuesday, September 11, 2001; Page A01 ; & Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection, Toxic metal levels in Florida shellfish, 1990.
(4) The Poisonwood Rivals; High Levels Of Arsenic Found In Lumber From Home Depot & Lowe's
Environmental Working Group, www.ewg.org
(5) Dr. P.E. Enterline, Univ. of Pittsburg, "Mortality Study of Tacoma Smelter Workers",
& Univ. of Michigan group, Anaconda Smelter Study,
(6) Marlowe M, Cossairt A, Moon C. Errera J. "Main and Interactive Effects of Metallic Toxins on Classroom Behavior, Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 1985; 13(2): 185-98.
(6a) Marlowe,M Stellern J, Errera J, Moon C. Main and interaction effects of metal pollutants on visual-motor performance. Arch Environ Health 1985; 40(4):221-5.
(7) Pihl RO, Parkes M. Hair element content in learning disabled children. Science 1977 Oct 14;198(4313):204-6.
(8) Moon C, Marlowe M Stellem J, Errera J. "Main and Interactive Effects of Metallic Pollutants on Cognitive Functioning", Journal of Learning Disabilities 1985; 18(4):217-221.
(9) Lewis M, Worobey J, Ramsay DS, McCormack MK. Prenatal exposure to heavy metals: effect on childhood cognitive skills and health status. Pediatrics 1992;89(6 Pt 1):1010-15.
(10) Capel ID, Pinnock MH, Dorrell HM, Williams DC, Grant EC. Comparison of concentrations of some trace, bulk, and toxic metals in the hair of normal and dyslexic children. Clin Chem 1981 Jun;27(6):879-81; & Frith CD et al, Dyslexia more common in English speaking countries, Science, Mar 2001.
(12)Thatcher RW, Lester ML, McAlaster R, Horst R. Effects of low levels of cadmium and lead on cognitive functioning in children. Arch Environ Health 1982 May-Jun;37(3):159-66.
(13) Marlowe M, Errera J, Cossairt A, Welch K. Hair mineral content as a predictor of learning disabilites. Journal of Learning Disabilites 1985.
(14) Marlowe M, Errera J, Jacobs J. Increased lead and mercury levels in emotionally disturbed children. Journal of Orthomolecular Psychiatry 1983; 12: 260-267;& Journal of Abnormal Psychology 1983; 93:386-9.
(15) Marlowe M, Moon C, Errera J, Jacobs J. Levels and combinations of metallic toxins and measures of behavioral disturbance. In: Rutherford RB(Ed.), Monographs in Behavior Disorders, Vol 5, p76-85; Council for Children and Behavior Disorders, Reston Va; & Chisolm J. Toxicity from heavy metal interactions and behavioral effects. Pediatrics 1974; 53:841-43.
(16) Gerr F, Letz R, Ryan PB, Green RC. Neurological effects of environmental exposure to arsenic in dust and soil among humans. Neurotoxicology. 2000 Aug;21(4):475-87.
(17) Rimland B, Larson GE. Hair mineral analysis and behavior: An analysis of 51 studies. Journal of Learning Disabilities 1983; 16: 279-85.
(18) Case histories: arsenic exposure and autism, ADHD, etc. www.home.earthlink.net/~berniew1/autismc.html
(19) Great Smokies Diagnostic Lab, Developmental Disorders of Toxic Origin: the Persistance of Lead, 2000,
http://www.gsdl.com/news/insights/number4/index1.html; & Emory E, Pattillo R, Archibold E, Bayorh M, Sung F, Neurobehavioral effects of low-level lead exposure in human neonates. Am J Obstet Gynecol 1999, 181:
S2-11; & Mendelsohn AL, Dreyer BP, et al, Low-level lead exposure and behavior in early childhood. Pediatrics 1998, 101(3): E10.
(20) Arsenic Groundwater Contamination and Sufferings of People in North 24-Parganas, One of the Nine Arsenic Affected Districts of West Bengal, India, Journal of Environmental Science and Health, Part A
Toxic/Hazardous Substances & Environmental Engineering , Volume 38 , Issue 1
(21) Quig D. Cysteine metabolism and metal toxicity. Doctor's Data, Inc., West Chicago, IL, USA. Inquiries@doctorsdata.com Altern Med Rev, 1998 Aug, 3:4, 262-70; & http://www.doctorsdata.com; &
Great Smokies Diagnostic Lab, Metals & Minerals in Children's Health, http://www.gsdl.com (by condition).
(22) High Levels Of Arsenic In Chicken May Require Adjustment in Consumption, Tamar Lasky, Wenyu Sun, Abdel Kadry, and Michael K. Hoffman; Environmental Health Perspectives, January, 2004.
(23) National Academy of Sciences, Assessment of the Adequacy of Arsenic Drinking Water Standards, 2001.
(24) Wang CH, Chen CJ et al; Biological gradient between long-term arsenic exposure and carotid atherosclerosis; Circulation 2002 Apr 16;105(15):1804-9; & Hopenhayn-Rich C et al, Chronic Arsenic Exposure and Risk of Infant Mortality in Two Areas of Chile. Environ Health Perspectives, 108(7), July 2000;
(25) Knashawn H et al, Risk of Internal Cancers from Arsenic in drinking water. Environ Health Perspectives, 108(7), July 2000;& Goyer RA, Toxic Effects of metals, in: Casarett & Doull's Toxicology. The Basic Science of Poisons. Fifth Ed., Klaaseen CD(Ed.), McGraw-Hill, 1996; & USPHS(ATSDR), Toxicological Profile for Cadmium, U.S. Public Health Service, CDROM., 1997.
(26) CCA Treated Wood News, Bibliography, www.bancca.org/
(27) J.A. Firestone, Occupational Risk Factors for Parkinson's Disease, Dept of Environmental Health, UW School of Public Health, Univ. of Washington, May 2001.
(30) B.Windham, Common Exposure Levels and Developmental Effects of Toxic Metals in Infants, 2001; www.home.earthlink.net/~berniew1/indexk.html