Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from Environmental Health and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research

A Cross-sectional Study of the Impact of Blood Selenium on Blood and Urinary Arsenic Concentrations in Bangladesh

Christine Marie George1*, Mary Gamble2, Vesna Slavkovich3, Diane Levy4, Alauddin Ahmed5, Habibul Ahsan6 and Joseph Graziano2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of International Health, Program in Global Disease Epidemiology and Control, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 615 N. Wolfe Street, Room W5535, Baltimore, MD E5535, USA

2 Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, 722 W. 168th St, Rosenfield Bldg, New York 10032, USA

3 Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, Trace Metals Core, New York 10032, USA

4 Department of Biostatistics, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, 722 W. 168th St, Rosenfield Bldg, New York, New York, USA

5 University of Chicago Arsenic & Health Research in Bangladesh, Dhaka, Bangladesh

6 Department of Health Studies, The University of Chicago Biological Sciences, 5841 S. Maryland Ave., MC 2007, Chicago, Illinois 60637, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

Environmental Health 2013, 12:52  doi:10.1186/1476-069X-12-52

Published: 1 July 2013

Abstract

Background

Arsenic can naturally occur in the groundwater without an anthropogenic source of contamination. In Bangladesh over 50 million people are exposed to naturally occurring arsenic concentrations exceeding the World Health Organization’s guideline of 10 μg/L. Selenium and arsenic have been shown to facilitate the excretion of each other in bile. Recent evidence suggests that selenium may play a role in arsenic elimination by forming a selenium-arsenic conjugate in the liver before excretion into the bile.

Methods

A cross-sectional study of 1601 adults and 287 children was conducted to assess the relationship between blood selenium and urinary and blood arsenic in a study population residing in a moderately arsenic-contaminated rural area in Bangladesh.

Results

The results of this study indicate a statistically significant inverse relationship between blood selenium and urinary arsenic concentrations in both adult and pediatric populations in rural Bangladesh after adjustment for age, sex, Body Mass Index, plasma folate and B12 (in children), and ever smoking and current betel nut use (in adults). In addition, there appears to be a statistically significant inverse relationship between blood selenium and blood arsenic in children.

Conclusions

Our results suggest that selenium is inversely associated with biomarkers of arsenic burden in both adults and children. These findings support the hypothesis that Se facilitates the biliary elimination of As, possibly via the putative formation of a Se-As conjugate using a glutathione complex. However, laboratory based studies are needed to provide further evidence to elucidate the presence of Se-As conjugate and its role in arsenic elimination in humans.

Keywords:
Selenium; Arsenic; Bangladesh; Pediatric populations