Importance of Arsenic Speciation in Populations Exposed to Arsenic in Drinking Water

Steven E. Spayd, Mark G. Robson, Ruimin Xie, Brian T. Buckley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Total arsenic in urine is often the principal means for assessing chronic exposure to arsenic-contaminated drinking water. This approach ignores many components of the human diet, especially fish and seafood that contain arsenic at significant concentrations. The toxicity differences between the inorganic forms and the dietary forms suggest both should be evaluated when attempting to assess risk from arsenic exposure. Urine biomonitoring for 53 participants was used to confirm reduction in arsenic exposure resulting from well water remediation removing inorganic arsenic from drinking water. Initially, only total arsenic urine assays were performed, but spikes in total arsenic urine concentrations were determined to be diet related and demonstrated the need for analytical methods that differentiate the arsenic species. A secondary analysis was added that quantified inorganic-related arsenic in urine and the dietary forms related to fish and seafood by subtraction from total arsenic. Significant differences were found between the inorganic arsenic component and the total arsenic measured in their urine. On average, approximately 76% of total arsenic in urine was attributed to fish and other organo-arsenic dietary sources, implying a potential significant overestimate of exposure, and demonstrating the need for differentiation of the inorganic-related arsenic from dietary arsenic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1271-1291
Number of pages21
JournalHuman and Ecological Risk Assessment
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecological Modeling
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


  • arsenic biomonitoring
  • drinking water
  • hydride generation
  • inorganic arsenic
  • urinary arsenic
  • water treatment


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