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Columbia University

Superfund Research Program

Health Effects of Arsenic Longitudinal Study

Project Leader: Habibul Ahsan (University of Chicago)
Co-Investigators: Ana Navas-Acien, Muhammad G. Kibriya (University of Chicago), Farzana Jasmine (University of Chicago)
Grant Number: P42ES010349
Funding Period: 2000-2021

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Project Summary (2017-2021)

Nearly 200 million people in the world, including ~57 million in Bangladesh and ~17 million in the United States, are chronically exposed to inorganic arsenic (As). As part of the Columbia’s Superfund Research Program (CU SRP) Center, the researchers established the Health Effects of Arsenic Longitudinal Study (HEALS)-a large prospective cohort study based on individual-level data among a population exposed to a wide range of inorganic As from drinking water in Araihazar, Bangladesh.

Over the past 15 years, using a population-based sampling frame, they recruited 35,050 men and women (with >95% response rates) and collected detailed questionnaires, clinical data, and biospecimen samples at baseline recruitment as well as every two years subsequently. Approximately 73% of participants are exposed to water As at low-to-moderate doses (<100 µg/L). Through a dedicated medical clinic established by Columbia University and The University of Chicago that exclusively serves the HEALS participants, they have also developed an effective mechanism of following the cohort, especially for detecting incidence of respiratory and cardiovascular disorders.

The researchers are prospectively evaluating:

  • Effects of As exposure (measured in water, urine, and rice) on incidence of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and CVD subtypes, chronic non-malignant respiratory diseases (CNRD) and CNRD subtypes, and diabetes mellitus (DM)
  • Effects of specific urinary As species on the incidence of CVD, CNRD, DM, and their certain subtypes

The researchers are also evaluating these association in participants exposed to water As at low-to-moderate doses (<100 µg/L). Furthermore, they plan to conduct individual-level meta-analyses pooling data from HEALS and other major population studies in the U.S. (Strong Heart Study, New Hampshire Arsenic Study, and San Luis Valley Study), Taiwan (Taiwanese Arsenic Study), and China (Inner Mongolia Arsenic Study) to examine full dose-response relationships between As exposure and CVD incidence and mortality.

The National Research Council (NRC) has identified non-cancer outcomes as a high-priority outcome for As exposure. Findings from HEALS will have major impact on the health of As-exposed populations globally.

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