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Increased Childhood Mortality and Arsenic in Drinking Water in Matlab, Bangladesh: A Population-Based Cohort Study

Rahman, Mahfuzar; Sohel, Nazmul; Yunus, Mohammad; Chowdhury, Mahbub Elahi; Hore, Samar Kumar; Zaman, Khalequ; Bhuiya, Abbas; Streatfield, Peter Kim

Background: Arsenic in drinking water was associated with increased risk of all-cause, cancer, and cardiovascular death in adults. However, the extent to which exposure is related to all-cause and deaths from cancer and cardiovascular condition in young age is unknown. Therefore, we prospectively assessed whether long-term and recent arsenic exposures are associated with all-cause and cancer and cardiovascular mortalities in Bangladeshi childhood population.
Methods and Findings: We assembled a cohort of 58406 children aged 5–18 years from the Health and Demographic Surveillance System of icddrb in Bangladesh and followed during 2003–2010. There were 185 non-accidental deaths registered in-about 0.4 million person-years of observation. We calculated hazard ratios for cause-specific death in relation to exposure at baseline (µg/L), time-weighted lifetime average (µg/L) and cumulative concentration (µg-years/L). After adjusting covariates, hazard ratios (HRs) for all-cause childhood deaths comparing lifetime average exposure 10–50.0, 50.1–150.0, 150.1–300.0 and ≥300.1µg/L were 1.37 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.74–2.57), 1.44 (95% CI, 0.88–2.38), 1.22 (95% CI, 0.75–1.98) and 1.88 (95% CI, 1.14–3.10) respectively. Significant increased risk was also observed for baseline (P for trend = 0.023) and cumulative exposure categories (P for trend = 0.036). Girls had higher mortality risk compared to boys (HR for girls 1.79, 1.21, 1.64, 2.31; HR for boys 0.52, 0.53, 1.14, 0.99) in relation to baseline exposure. For all cancers and cardiovascular deaths combined, multivariable adjusted HRs amounted to 1.53 (95% CI 0.51–4.57); 1.29 (95% CI 0.43–3.87); 2.18 (95%CI 1.15–4.16) for 10.0–50.0, 50.1–150.0, and ≥150.1, comparing lowest exposure as reference (P for trend = 0.009). Adolescents had higher mortality risk compared to children (HRs = 1.53, 95% CI 1.03–2.28 vs. HRs = 1.30, 95% CI 0.78–2.17).
Conclusions: Arsenic exposure was associated with substantial increased risk of deaths at young age from all-cause, and cancers and cardiovascular conditions. Girls and adolescents (12–18 years) had higher risk compared to boys and child.


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July 11, 2013