Academic journal article Journal of Health Population and Nutrition

Arsenic Exposure, Dermatological Lesions, Hypertension, and Chromosomal Abnormalities among People in a Rural Community of Northwest Iran

Academic journal article Journal of Health Population and Nutrition

Arsenic Exposure, Dermatological Lesions, Hypertension, and Chromosomal Abnormalities among People in a Rural Community of Northwest Iran

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Arsenic is a hazardous, naturally-occurring element widely distributed in the crust of the earth. Inorganic forms of arsenic (pentavalent and trivalent forms) can be found in small amounts in the atmosphere, groundwater, and surface-water. Exposure to arsenic compounds is a major concern to public health in both developing and developed countries (1,2). Arsenic is an ingredient of a wide variety of products in manufacturing industries, i.e. wood preservatives, herbicides, insecticides, pesticides, fungicides, high-emitting diodes, semi-conductors, etc., thus making workplaces a source of inhalation of, and dermal exposure to, arsenic. Arsenical drugs have also been used for treating some medical conditions (3,4). However, the main source of high exposure of general population to arsenic compounds is water. Arsenic in drinking-water above the accepted standards demonstrated in many countries is a global problem affecting countries on all five continents (5). In some countries of Asia, the issue of chronic arsenic intoxication seems to be a more important public-health problem than in other regions of the world (6). In Asia, arsenic has been reported in groundwater in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China (including provinces of Taiwan and Inner Mongolia), India, Iran, Japan, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Thailand, and Viet Nam (5). The most serious damage to health has taken place in Bangladesh and West Bengal, India (5,7).

In Iran, naturally-occurring arsenic is responsible for contamination in drinking-water. Kurdistan, a western province of the country, is having a major problem of arsenic contamination (8,9).

A recent study in the villages of Hashtrud county, in the northwest of the country, showed that arsenic exists in the drinking-water at a higher level (10) than the World Health Organization (WHO) guideline value of 10 [micro]g/L (11) and the national Iranian standard value of 50 [micro]g/L (12) in a quarter of the villages in this area.

The acute toxicity of arsenic at high concentrations has been known about for centuries. A strong adverse effect of low arsenic concentrations was recently discovered to be associated with long-term exposure. Drinking-water is now recognized as the major source of human intake of arsenic in its most toxic (inorganic) forms (5).

A number of studies have been reported to assess the effects of arsenic-contaminated food (13) and water in those communities with high level of contamination (13-18).

The disease symptoms caused by chronic arsenic ingestion are called arsenicosis and develop when arsenic-contaminated water is consumed for several years (5).

Although some adverse effects on health have been reported for chronic arsenic exposure, it varies by different population groups, age, gender, cumulative dose of arsenic, nutritional status, genetic factors, lifestyle, individual susceptibility, and different chemical forms of arsenic in drinking-water (19-22).

Many studies have been reported on the relationship of chronic arsenic exposure with cardiovascular diseases (23-24), cerebrovascular events (25,26), hypertension and peripheral vascular disorders (2732), Blackfoot disease (33), carcinogenic effects (3443), diabetes (44,45), some neurological diseases (46-47), skin disorders (48-50), and chromosomal abnormalities (51-56).

The first visible symptoms caused by exposure to low arsenic concentrations in drinking-water are abnormal black-brown skin-pigmentation known as melanosis and hardening of palms and soles known as keratosis. If the exposure continues, skin-depigmentation is started, resulting in white spots that look like raindrops (medically described as leukomelanosis). Palms and soles further thicken and painful cracks emerge. These symptoms are described as hyperkeratosis and can lead on to skin cancer (57).

The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of chronic exposure to arsenic on dermatological lesions, hypertension, and chromosomal abnormalities in a region in the northwest of Iran. …

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