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'Safe' Levels of Arsenic Questioned

Tuesday, 05 June 2012 12:46 PM

Trace amounts of arsenic in drinking water – even at the miniscule levels the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency deems as safe – may pose a risk to pregnant and breastfeeding women as well as their babies, a new study of mice suggests.
The study, led by Joshua Hamilton of the Marine Biological Laboratory and Courtney Kozul-Horvath at Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth University, found arsenic disrupted the women’s fat metabolism, and diminished nutrients in their blood and in their breast milk. As a result, their offspring had significant growth and development deficits.
The research team, which is part of the Dartmouth Superfund Research Program on Toxic Metals, noted that while the study involved mice it could have implications for humans as well.
"The [offspring] were essentially malnourished; they were small and underdeveloped," Hamilton said. He added that when the mice were switched to milk from a mother who had not consumed arsenic, their growth deficits reversed.
Researchers noted the U.S. EPA recently lowered its arsenic standards to a maximum level of 10 parts per billion in public water supplies — a level considered "safe" for a lifetime of exposure. But higher concentrations are commonly found in private, unregulated well water in regions where arsenic is naturally high, including upper New England, Florida, the Upper Midwest, the Southwest and the Rocky Mountains.
"This study raises a couple of issues. First, we have to think again about whether 10 ppb arsenic as a U.S. drinking water standard is safe and protective of human health," said Hamilton. "Second, this study reiterates an emerging idea in toxicology that pregnant women and their offspring are uniquely sensitive to chemicals in their environment."
The bottom line, Hamilton said: "If you are on a private water system, particularly in a region with high arsenic, have your water tested so that you know what you are drinking."
The study was published in the journal Public Library of Science One.

© HealthDay

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Even trace amounts of arsenic in drinking water at levels deemed safe may pose danger.
Tuesday, 05 June 2012 12:46 PM
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