The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is developing an integrated assessment of non-cancer and cancer risk assessment of inorganic arsenic (iAs). Cardiovascular disease (CVD) in association with iAs exposure has been examined in a number of studies and provides a basis for evaluating a reference dose (RfD) for assessing potential non-cancer health risks of arsenic exposure. In this systematic review of low-level iAs exposure (i.e., <100-150μg/L arsenic water concentration) and CVD in human populations, 13 cohort and case-control studies from the United States, Taiwan, Bangladesh, and China were identified and critically examined for evidence for derivation of a RfD. Eight cross-sectional and ecological studies from the United States were also examined for additional information. Prospective cohort data from Bangladesh provided the strongest evidence for determining the point of departure in establishing a candidate RfD based on a combined endpoint of mortality from “ischemic heart disease and other heart diseases.” This study as well as the overall literature supported a no-observed-adverse-effect level of 100μg/L for arsenic in water, which was equivalent to an iAs dose of 0.009mg/kg-day (based on population-specific water consumption rates and dietary iAs intake). The study population was likely sensitive to arsenic toxicity because of nutritional deficiencies affecting arsenic methylation and one-carbon metabolism, as well as increasing CVD risk. Evidence is less clear on the interaction of CVD risk factors in the United States (e.g., diabetes, obesity, and hypertension) with arsenic at low doses. Potential uncertainty factors up to 3 resulted in a RfD for CVD in the range of 0.003-0.009mg/kg-day. Although caution should be exercised in extrapolating these results to the U.S. general population, these doses allow a margin of exposure that is 10-30 times the current RfD derived by EPA (based on skin lesions in Southwest Taiwan). These findings suggest that the current EPA RfD is protective of CVD.
Tsuji JS, Perez V, Garry MR, Alexander DD. Association of low-level arsenic exposure in drinking water with cardiovascular disease: A systematic review and risk assessment. Toxicology. 2014 Sep 2;323:78-94. doi: 10.1016/j.tox.2014.06.008. Epub 2014 Jun 20.