Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Cigarette smoking and arsenic exposure: A deadly combination

Date:
May 6, 2011
Source:
University of Chicago Medical Center
Summary:
Arsenic exposure and smoking each elevate the risk of disease. But when combined together, the danger of dying from cardiovascular disease is magnified, a new study finds.

Arsenic exposure and smoking each elevate the risk of disease. But when combined together, the danger of dying from cardiovascular disease is magnified, a new study finds.

Exposure to high or even moderate levels of the toxin arsenic through drinking water can elevate the risk of cardiovascular disease mortality, according to a new study published in British Medical Journal. Exposed individuals who smoke were hit with a dangerous double whammy: a combined mortality risk that exceeded the influence of either factor alone.

"Cigarette smoking is pervasive all over the world, and arsenic exposure on top of it creates a major public health problem," said Habibul Ahsan, MD, MMedSc, Professor and Director of the Center for Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention at the University of Chicago Medical Center and senior author of the study. "This tells us that there are some individuals who are dying from cardiovascular disease solely because of the presence of both factors, not because of the presence of one or the other."

The epidemiological study was part of an ongoing project to measure the health consequences of arsenic exposure in Bangladesh. Millions of people in the South Asian country have been accidentally exposed to unsafe levels of arsenic via drinking water from wells installed by health organizations in the 1970's to fight water-borne infectious disease.

For the past 11 years, researchers from the University of Chicago, Columbia University, and New York University have studied the health effects of this long-term toxic exposure in nearly 12,000 recruits from the country. The new study sought to characterize the effect of prolonged arsenic exposure upon death from cardiovascular disease -- an effect less strongly established than the toxin's links with cancer, skin lesions, and respiratory disease.

Researchers collected urine samples from 11,746 men and women and water samples from the wells they used to measure arsenic exposure. Subjects were tracked for an average of 6.6 years, with causes of death noted in those who died during that time. Of the 460 deaths observed during the study period, 198 were because of cardiovascular disease.

When arsenic exposure levels were compared across the population, a significant effect on mortality was found for those exposed to levels higher than 12 parts per million -- just slightly above the World Health Organization recommended safe limit of 10 parts per million. Individuals who drank water containing higher than 12 parts per million arsenic (ranging from 13 to 864 parts per million) were nearly 50 percent more likely to die of cardiovascular disease than those drinking water below that concentration.

"We were able to show that, even at lower doses than previously reported, there seems to be a deleterious effect of arsenic regarding cardiovascular disease mortality, particularly from ischemic and other heart diseases," Ahsan said.

When the data was further compared according to smoking behavior, another interaction was observed. The risk of dying from ischemic and other heart diseases associated with moderate or high arsenic exposure was even higher in people who currently smoke or have smoked.

Non-smokers exposed to high levels of arsenic exposure (over ten times the safe limit) were 50 percent more likely to die of cardiovascular disease than those exposed to safe levels of the toxin. By comparison, current smokers were more than 300 percent more likely to die of cardiovascular disease if exposed to high levels of arsenic.

The result is relevant both for Bangladeshis exposed to unusually high concentrations of arsenic and people around the world, including in the United States, who may be exposed to moderate levels of arsenic in water and could exacerbate the harmful effects of smoking.

"This highlights the importance of eliminating smoking from a population," Ahsan said. "It's one more reason to pay attention to arsenic exposure, but yet another reason that will underscore the importance of smoking cessation."

In an accompanying editorial, Allan H. Smith of the University of California, Berkeley and Craig M. Steinmaus of the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment agreed that the study's results reinforce the worldwide dangers of even moderate arsenic exposure.

"There is enough evidence to highlight a serious public health concern because exposure to groundwater containing arsenic is widespread throughout the world," the authors write. "Arsenic poses far higher health risks than any other known environmental exposure, with about one in 10 people dying because of high concentrations of arsenic in water."

The study will be published online May 6, 2011 by BMJ. In addition to Ahsan, authors include Yu Chen and Mengling Liu of New York University School of Medicine; Joseph Graziano, Faruque Parvez, Vesna Slavkovich, Diane Levy, and Alexander van Geen of Columbia University; Tara Kalra and Maria Argos of the University of Chicago; and Tariqul Islam, Alauddin Ahmed, Muhammad Rakibuz-Zaman, Rabiul Hasan, and Golam Sarwar of the University of Chicago and Columbia University Research Project Office in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and the National Cancer Institute.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Chicago Medical Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Y. Chen, J. H. Graziano, F. Parvez, M. Liu, V. Slavkovich, T. Kalra, M. Argos, T. Islam, A. Ahmed, M. Rakibuz-Zaman, R. Hasan, G. Sarwar, D. Levy, A. van Geen, H. Ahsan. Arsenic exposure from drinking water and mortality from cardiovascular disease in Bangladesh: prospective cohort study. BMJ, 2011; 342 (may05 2): d2431 DOI: 10.1136/bmj.d2431

Cite This Page:

University of Chicago Medical Center. "Cigarette smoking and arsenic exposure: A deadly combination." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 May 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110505212318.htm>.
University of Chicago Medical Center. (2011, May 6). Cigarette smoking and arsenic exposure: A deadly combination. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110505212318.htm
University of Chicago Medical Center. "Cigarette smoking and arsenic exposure: A deadly combination." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110505212318.htm (accessed April 17, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Thousands Of Vials Of SARS Virus Go Missing

Thousands Of Vials Of SARS Virus Go Missing

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A research institute in Paris somehow misplaced more than 2,000 vials of the deadly SARS virus. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Formerly Conjoined Twins Released From Dallas Hospital

Formerly Conjoined Twins Released From Dallas Hospital

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) Conjoined twins Emmett and Owen Ezell were separated by doctors in August. Now, nearly nine months later, they're being released from the hospital. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Outbreak Now Linked To 121 Deaths

Ebola Outbreak Now Linked To 121 Deaths

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) The ebola virus outbreak in West Africa is now linked to 121 deaths. Health officials fear the virus will continue to spread in urban areas. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins