Low-moderate arsenic exposure and respiratory in American Indian communities in the Strong Heart Study

Powers, Martha; Sanchez, Tiffany R.; Grau-Perez, Maria; Yeh, Fawn; Francesconi, Kevin A.; Goessler, Walter; George, Christine M.; Heaney, Christopher; Best, Lyle G.; Umans, Jason G.; Brown, Robert H.; Navas-Acien, Ana

Arsenic exposure through drinking water is an established lung carcinogen. Evidence on non-malignant lung outcomes is less conclusive and suggests arsenic is associated with lower lung function. Studies examining low-moderate arsenic (< 50 μg/L), the level relevant for most populations, are limited. We evaluated the association of arsenic exposure with respiratory health in American Indians from the Northern Plains, the Southern Plains and the Southwest United States, communities with environmental exposure to inorganic arsenic through drinking water.

The Strong Heart Study is a prospective study of American Indian adults. This analysis used urinary arsenic measurements at baseline (1989–1991) and spirometry at Visit 2 (1993–1995) from 2132 participants to evaluate associations of arsenic exposure with airflow obstruction, restrictive pattern, self-reported respiratory disease, and symptoms.

Airflow obstruction was present in 21.5% and restrictive pattern was present in 14.4%. The odds ratio (95% confidence interval) for obstruction and restrictive patterns, based on the fixed ratio definition, comparing the 75th to 25th percentile of arsenic, was 1.17 (0.99, 1.38) and 1.27 (1.01, 1.60), respectively, after adjustments, and 1.28 (1.02, 1.60) and 1.33 (0.90, 1.50), respectively, based on the lower limit of normal definition. Arsenic was associated with lower percent predicted FEV1 and FVC, self-reported emphysema and stopping for breath.

Low-moderate arsenic exposure was positively associated with restrictive pattern, airflow obstruction, lower lung function, self-reported emphysema and stopping for breath, independent of smoking and other lung disease risk factors. Findings suggest that low-moderate arsenic exposure may contribute to restrictive lung disease.


  • thumnail for 12940_2019_Article_539.pdf 12940_2019_Article_539.pdf application/pdf 697 KB Download File

Also Published In

Environmental Health

More About This Work

Published Here
September 22, 2023