Japan Inner Mongolia Arsenic Pollution (JIAMP) Study Group. Mental health burden amongst inhabitants of an arsenic-affected area in Inner Mongolia, China

Department of Clinical Epidemiology, Institute of Industrial Ecological Science, University of Occupational and Environmental Health, 1-1, Iseigaoka, Yahatanishiku, Kitakyush 807-8555, Japan.
Social Science & Medicine (Impact Factor: 2.89). 12/2004; 59(9):1969-73. DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2004.02.031
Source: PubMed


Inner Mongolia, China, is an area with high levels of arsenic. The adverse health effects resulting from chronic arsenic exposure include skin keratosis, vascular diseases and cancers. However, the effects of arsenic exposure on mental health have not received much attention. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of arsenic poisoning on the mental health of the inhabitants of an arsenic-affected area. We performed a cross-sectional study at two villages in Hetao Plain, Inner Mongolia. The populations of both villages were similar in age, sex, lifestyle, socioeconomic conditions, and geographic location. One hundred and thirty four (93.7%) of the 143 inhabitants in the arsenic-affected village and 36 (76.6%) of the 47 inhabitants in the arsenic-free village participated in the study. Subjects with a 30-item version of General Health Questionnaire score of 9 or more were defined as having symptoms of distress. The multiple logistic analyses showed that the mental health of the subjects in the arsenic-affected village was worse than in those in the arsenic-free village (OR=2.5, 95% CI=1.1-6.0). The effect of arsenic on mental health in arsenic-affected areas deserves further investigation. The mental health burden in arsenic-affected areas should be considered in the wider context of public and community health.

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    • "The control of arsenic concentration is of special interest because chronical exposure to excessive arsenic concentration can cause many health problems. If consumed, water with high arsenic concentration can increase the risk toward skin and bladder cancer, as well as kidney and lung cancer (Fatmi et al., 2009; Fujino et al., 2004). The presence of arsenic in water does not affect the smell and the taste of water and geological presence of arsenic doesn't necessarily mean that arsenic will be present in drinking water. "
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    • "Medium Children (6-7 y.o.) ↓capacity in vocabulary Roy et al. 2011 [15] Low and High Children (5-15 y.o.) ↓capacity in vocabulary, language Von Ehrenstein et al. 2007 [16] Low Adults ↓capacity in executive function, mental acuity, verbal skills O'Bryant et al. 2011 [43@BULLET@BULLET] Visual perception Medium Children (6-7 y.o.) ↓capacity in visual search Rosado et al. 2007 [14] Low and High Children (5-15 y.o.) ↓capacity in picture completion, object assembly Von Ehrenstein et al. 2007 [16] Mental health Medium Children ↑risk for ADHD Roy et al. 2011 [15] Low Adults ↑incidence of depression Zierold et al. 2004 [53] Medium Adults ↑symptoms of anxiety Dang et al. 2008 [50], Dang et al. 2009 Low → High Adults ↓quality of life and mental health Syed et al. 2012 [47] High Adults ↑symptoms of altered mental health Fujino et al. 2004 [51] Low → High Adults ↑insomnia ↓general health Guo et al. 2007 [49] Low → High Adults ↑risk of psychiatric disorder, depression, anxiety Sen et al. 2012 [52] Exposure Low: less than 50 μg/L (ppb) urinary arsenic or water arsenic Medium: between 50 μg/L (ppb) and 100 μg/L (ppb) urinary or water arsenic High: more than 100 μg/L (ppb) urinary arsenic or water arsenic with other factors that could affect the outcomes of these studies (Table 2). These include exposures to a mixture of metals, low socioeconomic status, and poor nutrition. "
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    • "[42]. Furthermore, a cross-sectional study in two villages in Inner Mongolia, China found that the mental health of the subjects in the arsenic-affected village was worse than in those in the arsenic-free village (OR= 2.5, 95% CI=1.1.–6.0) [43]. In addition, experiences with animals have pointed out that perinatal arsenic exposure was associated with depressive-like behaviors in the affected mouse offspring [44]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Underground water in many regions of the world is contaminated with high concentrations of arsenic and the resulting toxicity has created a major environmental and public health problem in the affected regions. Chronic arsenic exposure can cause many diseases, including various physical and psychological harms. Although the physical problems caused by arsenic toxicity are well reported in literature, unfortunately the consequences of arsenic exposure on mental health are not adequately studied. Therefore we conducted a review of the available literature focusing on the social consequences and detrimental effects of arsenic toxicity on mental health. Chronic arsenic exposures have serious implications for its victims (i.e. arsenicosis patients) and their families including social instability, social discrimination, refusal of victims by community and families, and marriage-related problems. Some studies conducted in arsenic affected areas revealed that arsenic exposures are associated with various neurologic problems. Chronic arsenic exposure can lead to mental retardation and developmental disabilities such as physical, cognitive, psychological, sensory and speech impairments. As health is defined by the World Health Organization as "a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing", the social dimensions have a large impact on individual's mental health. Furthermore studies in China und Bangladesh have shown that mental health problems (e.g. depression) are more common among the people affected by arsenic contamination. Our study indicates various neurological, mental and social consequences among arsenic affected victims. Further studies are recommended in arsenic-affected areas to understand the underlying mechanisms of poor mental health caused by arsenic exposure.
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