2003 Volume 13 Issue 4 Pages 211-215
Background: In Inner Mongolia, China, more than 300, 000 people are chronically exposed to arsenic via their drinking water. We have previously reported that the prevalence of arsenical dermatosis was as high as 40% in the Hetao Plain area. However, the association between exposure to arsenic in drinking water and adverse health effects has not been fully examined. The purpose of this study was to examine the association between exposure to arsenic and prevalence of subjective symptoms.
Methods: A cross-sectional study was carried out in 431 residents of an arsenic-affected village and 189 residents of an arsenic-free village in 1996. Health-related interviews and physical examinations were conducted. The odds ratio for each subjective symptom was estimated, comparing residents of arsenic-free and affected villages.
Results: An arsenic level of 50+ jig/L was found in 90.6% of wells in the arsenic-affected village. Adjusted odds ratios of subjective symptoms, including coughs (odds ratio [OR]=12.8, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 6.4-25.6), stomachaches (OR=5.8, 95% CI: 3.6-9.4), palpitations (OR=3.6, 95% CI: 1.5-8.2), urination problems (OR=14.7, 95% Cl: 3.3-65.5) and spontaneous abortions (OR=2.7, 95% CI: 0.8-8.4), were markedly higher amongst residents of the arsenic-affected village, including those without arsenic dermatosis.
Conclusions: The present study shows a high prevalence of subjective symptoms amongst residents of an arsenic-affected village. Symptoms occurred in people with and without arsenic dermatosis. Our findings suggest that symptoms other than dermatosis should be considered when a clinical diagnosis of arsenic toxicosis is made.
J Epidemiol 2003;13:211-215.