Does arsenic exposure increase the risk for circulatory disease?

Irva Hertz-Picciotto, H. Michael Arrighi, Suh Woan Hu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Studies of residents in communities with high endemic concentrations of arsenic in drinking water suggest a deleterious effect on the circulatory system; however, studies among workers with high occupational exposures generally have shown either no or weak associations. This discrepancy could be a result of the healthy worker effect, including the healthy hire component and the healthy worker survivor effect (HWSE). Therefore, the authors conducted analyses of arsenic exposure in relation to circulatory disease mortality among 2,802 Tacoma, Washington, smelter workers by using 1) internal comparisons to control for the healthy hire effect and 2) the lagging method, adjustment for employment status, and the G-null test to control for the HWSE. Both lagging and adjustment for work status increased circulatory mortality rate ratios at all exposure levels, as compared with a baseline Poisson model. This excess mortality was limited to cardiovascular disease; no excess was observed for cerebrovascular disease. G-null analyses suggested no adverse effect, but power was very limited for this analysis. Overall, these results may indicate that the HWSE obscures an effect of arsenic on circulatory disease. Since cardiovascular deaths constitute about one-third of total mortality, small rate ratios translate into large numbers of excess deaths and, if causal, could be of wide public health significance. Further studies of arsenic exposure and cardiovascular disease are needed, and those conducted in occupational cohorts must control for the HWSE.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)174-181
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Epidemiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 15 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Arsenic
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Epidemiologic methods
  • Healthy worker effect
  • Occupational medicine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology


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