Height and blood chemistry in adults with a history of developmental arsenic poisoning from contaminated milk powder

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Abstract

Background:

Arsenic poisoning interferes with bone metabolism in laboratory animal studies, and human studies suggest lowered bone mass density at elevated exposures. As the long-term consequences of developmental arsenic toxicity are poorly known, we carried out a clinical pilot study of survivors of the mass arsenic poisoning of bottle-fed infants in Japan in 1955.

Objectives:

The purpose was to evaluate the association between developmental arsenic exposure and physical stature and routine blood chemistry reflecting major organ functions more than 50 years later.

Methods:

The study sample consisted of 50 individuals recruited at two hospitals in Okayama Prefecture, Japan: 27 known poisoning victims (14 men and 13 women), and 23 non-exposed local controls of similar age (10 men, 13 women). We collected information from physical examinations that included routine blood counts and blood biochemistry.

Results:

The average height of the exposed group was 6.5 cm below that of the unexposed group (p=0.02), while the latter was in accordance with national data for both sexes. In addition, the exposed participants had a higher mean (SD) serum concentration of alkaline phosphatase (ALP) of 233 (63) U/L than the unexposed participants (191 (44) U/L) (p=0.01). No other statistically significant difference was observed, and liver enzymes were within normal ranges.

Conclusions:

Adults who had suffered arsenic poisoning during infancy showed decreased height and elevated ALP that suggests abnormalities in bone metabolism possibly induced by arsenic incorporated in the bone matrix.

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