A new study conducted in Bangladesh finds that folic acid supplements can dramatically lower blood arsenic levels in individuals chronically exposed to arsenic-contaminated drinking water. Arsenic is a toxic element that is naturally present in some soils and water. Arsenic-contaminated drinking water is currently a significant public health problem in at least 70 countries, including several developing countries and also parts of the United States. Chronic arsenic exposure is associated with increased risk for skin, liver and bladder cancers, skin lesions, cardiovascular disease, and other adverse health outcomes. The study was funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Researchers found that treatment with 400 micrograms a day of folic acid, the U.S. Recommended Dietary Allowance, reduced total blood arsenic levels in a Bangladesh study population by 14 percent. Folate is a B vitamin found in leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, beans, and whole grains. Folic acid can also be taken as a vitamin supplement, and in the United States, it is added to flour and other fortified foods. The researchers found that folate deficiency is very common in Bangladesh, where the study was conducted, but is not as problematic in the United States due to folate fortification. Additional studies are needed to determine if folic acid similarly lowers blood arsenic in populations where folate deficiency is less common, such as in the United States.
William Suk, Ph.D., Acting Deputy Director of the NIEHS discussed the significance of this work in Bangladesh to the U.S. He explains that arsenic contamination of groundwater is one of the five most common inorganic compounds found at Superfund sites and is present at over 70 percent of the sites. Because of the prevalence of arsenic, the SBRP has placed an emphasis on supporting arsenic-related research in heavily affected areas all over t
|Contact: Robin Mackar|
NIH/National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences