Health effect levels for risk assessment of childhood exposure to arsenic

Joyce S Tsuji, Robert Benson, Rosalind A Schoof, Gene C Hook
Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology: RTP 2004, 39 (2): 99-110
Health risks to children from chemicals in soil and consumer products have become a regulatory focus in the U.S. This study reviews short-term health effect levels for arsenic exposure in young children (i.e., 0-6 years old). Acute health effects are described mostly in adults in case reports of arsenic poisoning from water or food and in studies of medicinal arsenic treatment. Several epidemiological studies report health effects from subchronic arsenic exposure in children primarily from drinking water in developing countries. Acute health effects typically include gastrointestinal, neurological, and skin effects, and in a few cases facial edema and cardiac arrhythmia. Dermatoses are most consistently reported in both adults and children with subchronic exposure. With low exposure, the prevalence and severity of disease generally increases with age (i.e., length of exposure) and arsenic dose. The available data collectively indicate a lowest-observed-adverse-effect level around 0.05mg/kg-day for both acute and subchronic exposure. At low doses, children do not appear to be more sensitive than adults on a dose-per-body-weight basis, although data for acute exposures are limited and uncertainties exist for quantifying potential neurological or vascular effects at low-level subchronic exposures. Based on these data, possible reference levels for acute and subchronic exposure in young children are 0.015 and 0.005mg/kg-day, respectively.

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