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Arsenic in drinking water ups heart disease risk

May 6, 2011 - Washington

A recent study has found that exposure to even moderate levels of arsenic in drinking water can increase the risk of heart diseases, especially among smokers.

A team of researchers from USA and Bangladesh conducted a test to find the association between arsenic exposure and death from cardiovascular disease and the influence of smoking on the association.

Researchers tested 11,746 men and women living in Araihazar, Bangladesh, where groundwater is contaminated by arsenic.

The results showed that death rate for cardiovascular disease was 271 per 100,000 person years among individuals drinking water containing moderate levels of arsenic (12 - 864 parts per billion, or ppb) compared with 214 per 100,000 person years among individuals drinking water containing low levels of arsenic (less than 12ppb).

Researchers found that the risk of dying from heart disease associated with arsenic exposure was consistently higher in current and former smokers compared with non-smokers.

This clearly suggests that smoking further intensifies the cardiovascular effects of arsenic exposure, even at moderate levels.

The ways in which arsenic leads to heart disease are not clear, but studies suggest that it can induce atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), say the authors.

"Exposure to arsenic in drinking water is adversely associated with mortality from heart disease, especially among smokers," they added.

The study has been published on


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