Studies point to arsenic danger to children

Diseases

Two icddr,b studies have found that arsenic exposure during pregnancy may be linked to drowning in young children, as well as double risk of pneumonia in children under 5 years of age.

A new icddr,b study has found a significant association between prenatal arsenic exposure and drowning in children aged between one and five years of age.

Scientists from icddr,b along with collaborators from BRAC and McMaster University, Canada undertook the prospective study at icddr,b’s rural field site Matlab, in an attempt to identify a possible link between arsenic exposure during pregnancy and an increased risk of mortality among young children. The scientists analysed mortality data from children born to 11,414 pregnant women during 2002 to 2004, and screened more than 13,000 functional tubewells in the neighbourhood for arsenic contamination.

Image7They followed the cohort until they were five years old. The study did not consider some other potential risk factors for drowning, however, including inadequate supervision of children and access to unprotected bodies of water.

Previous studies have shown that arsenic can cross the placenta, and that unborn babies may therefore be exposed to arsenic in the womb. Evidence also shows that arsenic can affect cognitive development and motor function.

Meanwhile, icddr,b scientists and international collaborators have found that children under 5 years of age exposed to arsenic had a two-times higher odds of developing pneumonia than children not exposed.

The scientists looked at arsenic concentration in urine samples of 153 children aged between 1 month to 5 years with severe and very severe pneumonia. For comparison, they also looked at 296 healthy children in the same age group.

The association of arsenic with pneumonia was present even after the researchers accounted for other risk factors, like weight for height and age.

The case control study was conducted during January 2012 to September 2013 in icddr,b’s rural field site Matlab with colleagues from Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, USA, and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, USA.

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