Study Finds in Utero Arsenic Exposure Tied to Lung Disease

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Lung Cancer and Arsenic

Children who are exposed to high levels of arsenic in their drinking water are seven to 12 times more likely to die of lung cancer and other lung diseases in young adulthood, a new study by University of California, Berkeley, and Chilean researchers suggests.

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The risk of dying due to bronchiectasis, usually a rare lung disease, is 46 times higher than normal if the child's mother also drank the arsenic-contaminated water while pregnant, according to the study. These findings provide some of the first human evidence that fetal or early childhood exposure to any toxic substance can result in markedly increased disease rates in adults.

"The extraordinary risk we found for in utero and early childhood exposure is a new scientific finding," says the study's lead author, Allan Smith, professor of epidemiology at UC Berkeley's School of Public Health. "I sometimes ponder the improbability that drinking water with concentrations of arsenic less than one-thousandth of a gram per liter could do this, and think that I've got to be wrong. But our years of working with arsenic exposure in India and Chile tie in with this study perfectly."

The paper will appear in the July print issue of Environmental Health Perspectives and

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