Arsenic exposure in Hungary, Romania and Slovakia

Anna Lena Lindberg, Walter Goessler, Eugen Gurzau, Kvetoslava Koppova, Peter Rudnai, Rajiv Kumar, Tony Fletcher, Giovanni Leonardi, Katarina Slotova, Emilia Gheorghiu, Marie Vahter

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Inorganic arsenic is a potent human carcinogen and toxicant which people are exposed to mainly via drinking water and food. The objective of the present study was to assess current exposure to arsenic via drinking water in three European countries. For this purpose, 520 individuals from four Hungarian, two Slovakian and two Romanian countries were investigated by measuring inorganic arsenic and methylated arsenic metabolites in urine by high performance liquid chromatography with hydride generation and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Arsenic in drinking water was determined by atomic absorption spectrometry. Significantly higher concentrations of arsenic were found in both the water and the urine samples from the Hungarian counties (median: 11 and 15 μg dm-3, respectively; p < 0.001) than from the Slovakian (median: 0.94 and 4.5 μg dm-3, respectively) and Romanian (median: 0.70 and 2.1 μg dm-3, respectively) counties. A significant correlation was seen between arsenic in water and arsenic in urine (R 2 = 0.46). At low water arsenic concentrations, the relative amount of dimethylarsinic acid (DMA) in urine was increased, indicating exposure via food. Also, high body mass index was associated with higher concentrations of arsenic in urine (p = 0.03), mostly in the form of DMA. Smokers had significantly higher urinary arsenic concentrations than non-smokers (p = 0.03). In conclusion, elevated arsenic exposure via drinking water was prevalent in some of the counties. Exposure to arsenic from food, mainly as DMA, and cigarette smoke, mainly as inorganic arsenic, are major determinants of arsenic exposure at very low concentrations of arsenic in drinking water.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-208
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Environmental Monitoring
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2006


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

Cite this

Lindberg, A. L., Goessler, W., Gurzau, E., Koppova, K., Rudnai, P., Kumar, R., Fletcher, T., Leonardi, G., Slotova, K., Gheorghiu, E., & Vahter, M. (2006). Arsenic exposure in Hungary, Romania and Slovakia. Journal of Environmental Monitoring, 8(1), 203-208.