Low-level arsenic exposure via drinking water consumption and female fecundity - A preliminary investigation
High level arsenic exposure is associated with reproductive toxicity in experimental and observational studies; however, few data exist to assess risks at low levels. Even less data are available to evaluate the impact of low level arsenic exposure on human fecundity. Our aim in this pilot study was a preliminary evaluation of associations between low level drinking water arsenic contamination and female fecundity. This retrospective study was conducted among women previously recruited to a hospital-based case-control study of spontaneous pregnancy loss in Timis County, Romania. Women (n=94) with planned pregnancies of 5–20 weeks gestation completed a comprehensive physician-administered study questionnaire and reported the number of menstrual cycles attempting to conceive as the time to pregnancy (TTP). Drinking water samples were collected from residential drinking water sources and we determined arsenic levels using hydride generation-atomic absorption spectrometry (HG-AAS). Multivariable Cox-proportional hazards regression with Efron approximation was employed to evaluate TTP as a function of drinking water arsenic concentrations among planned pregnancies, adjusted for covariates. There was no main effect for drinking water arsenic exposure, yet the conditional probability for pregnancy was modestly lower among arsenic exposed women with longer TTPs, relative to women with shorter TTPs, and relative to unexposed women. For example, 1 μg/L average drinking water arsenic conferred 5%, 8%, and 10% lower likelihoods for pregnancy in the 6th, 9th, and 12th cycles, respectively (P=0.01). While preliminary, our results suggest that low level arsenic contamination in residential drinking water sources may further impair fecundity among women with longer waiting times; however, this hypothesis requires confirmation by a future, more definitive study.