Early arsenic exposure: Males more likely to suffer long-term lung issues

Exposure to arsenic in utero and during early childhood has long been linked to various respiratory illnesses that could have lifelong effects. Continued exposure to the toxin has been associated with chronic cough, dyspnea and breathlessness.

Growing evidence shows that early life exposure to arsenic leads to continued health effects later in life, but a recent study has shown that long-term effects tend to be more prevalent in males than they are in females. It found that by the age range of 14 to 26, there was little remaining evidence of chronic respiratory effects in females, but pronounced effects persisted in males.

“This is the first longitudinal cohort study of respiratory effects in adolescents and young adults who were exposed to arsenic in utero and in early childhood,” said Taehyun Roh, one of the study’s authors and assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the Texas A&M School of Public Health.

The study was recently published in Environmental Epidemiology, an official journal of the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology.

The current study is a follow up to a previous study conducted by the same group of researchers that examined the chronic respiratory effects of arsenic in early childhood (ages 7 to 17) in individuals in Matlab, Bangladesh.

In the initial study, one group of children had been exposed to high concentrations of inorganic arsenic, which is highly toxic, through drinking water in utero and during early childhood, and a second group had no known exposure to the toxin. The exposed children, both females and males, showed an increase in respiratory symptoms.

“Our study provides extensive evidence that there are long-term effects resulting from early life exposure to arsenic,” Roh said. “So, every effort should be made to reduce exposure, especially in early life.”

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