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Diet and toenail arsenic concentrations in a New Hampshire population with arsenic-containing water

Kathryn L Cottingham1*, Roxanne Karimi12, Joann F Gruber13, M Scot Zens4, Vicki Sayarath4, Carol L Folt1, Tracy Punshon1, J Steven Morris4 and Margaret R Karagas4

Author affiliations

1 Department of Biological Sciences, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, USA

2 School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY, USA

3 Department of Epidemiology, Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA

4 Section of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Hanover, NH, USA

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Citation and License

Nutrition Journal 2013, 12:149  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-12-149

Published: 16 November 2013

Abstract

Background

Limited data exist on the contribution of dietary sources of arsenic to an individual’s total exposure, particularly in populations with exposure via drinking water. Here, the association between diet and toenail arsenic concentrations (a long-term biomarker of exposure) was evaluated for individuals with measured household tap water arsenic. Foods known to be high in arsenic, including rice and seafood, were of particular interest.

Methods

Associations between toenail arsenic and consumption of 120 individual diet items were quantified using general linear models that also accounted for household tap water arsenic and potentially confounding factors (e.g., age, caloric intake, sex, smoking) (n = 852). As part of the analysis, we assessed whether associations between log-transformed toenail arsenic and each diet item differed between subjects with household drinking water arsenic concentrations <1 μg/L versus ≥1 μg/L.

Results

As expected, toenail arsenic concentrations increased with household water arsenic concentrations. Among the foods known to be high in arsenic, no clear relationship between toenail arsenic and rice consumption was detected, but there was a positive association with consumption of dark meat fish, a category that includes tuna steaks, mackerel, salmon, sardines, bluefish, and swordfish. Positive associations between toenail arsenic and consumption of white wine, beer, and Brussels sprouts were also observed; these and most other associations were not modified by exposure via water. However, consumption of two foods cooked in water, beans/lentils and cooked oatmeal, was more strongly related to toenail arsenic among those with arsenic-containing drinking water (≥1 μg/L).

Conclusions

This study suggests that diet can be an important contributor to total arsenic exposure in U.S. populations regardless of arsenic concentrations in drinking water. Thus, dietary exposure to arsenic in the US warrants consideration as a potential health risk.

Keywords:
Biomarkers; Drinking water; Population-based study; Food borne exposure; Rice; Fish