Indan Journal of Medical Research Indan Journal of Medical Research Indan Journal of Medical Research
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Year : 2008  |  Volume : 128  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 436-447

Chronic arsenic toxicity & human health

DNGM Research Foundation, Kolkata, India

Correspondence Address:
D N Guha Mazumder
DNGM Research Foundation, Kolkata, India

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

PMID: 19106439

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Chronic arsenic toxicity (arsenicosis) due to drinking of arsenic contaminated ground water is a major environmental health hazard throughout the world including India. A lot of new information is emerging from extensive research on health effects of chronic arsenic toxicity (CAT) in humans during the last two decades. Available literature has been reviewed to highlight the problem including its malignancies. Pigmentation and keratosis are the specific skin lesions characteristics of CAT. CAT also produces various systemic manifestations over and above skin lesions, important ones being chronic lung disease like chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and bronchiectasis, liver disease like non-cirrhotic portal fibrosis and other diseases like polyneuropathy, peripheral vascular disease, hypertension and ischeamic heart disease, diabetes mellitus, non-pitting oedema of feet/hands, weakness and anaemia. Cancer of skin, lung and urinary bladder are important cancers associated with chronic arsenic toxicity. Stoppage of drinking of arsenic contaminated water is the main stay in the management of arsenicosis as specific chelation therapy has limited value. Early skin cancer, detectable by regular active surveillance, is curable. In addition to dermatological features, CAT produces protean clinical manifestations. Treatment of arsenicosis is unsatisfactory and is mostly symtomatic.

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