Distribution of urinary selenium and arsenic among pregnant women exposed to arsenic in drinking water

W Jay Christian, Claudia Hopenhayn, José A Centeno, Todor Todorov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Inorganic arsenic (In-As) is a well-known toxicant and carcinogen found naturally in surface and groundwater around the world. Exposure can cause skin lesions, adverse reproductive outcomes, and cancer. There are two main pathways of arsenic (As) metabolism in humans: the reduction reactions, and the oxidative methylation reactions, where methyl groups are attached to As compounds to form monomethylarsenate (MMA) and dimethylarsenate (DMA). MMA, DMA, and In-As are excreted in urine. Urinary levels of another metalloid, selenium (Se), have recently been shown to be associated with increased As excretion and altered metabolite distribution. This study investigates this association, using data collected in a larger prospective study of arsenic and reproductive effects in Chile. This analysis included 93 pregnant women from Antofagasta. Data on demographic, behavioral, and other characteristics were obtained via interviews conducted by trained midwives, and spot urine samples were analyzed for As and Se concentration using inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). Urinary Se levels were found to be correlated with urinary As levels in bivariate analysis (r = 0.68, P < 0.01). Multiple linear regression analyses revealed that higher urinary Se levels were associated with increased urinary As excretion, increased %DMA, and decreased %In-As. The results of this study suggest that in populations exposed to arsenic, Se intake may be correlated with urinary As excretion, and may alter As methylation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-22
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2006


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Arsenic/urine
  • Arsenicals/urine
  • Cacodylic Acid/urine
  • Chile/epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Methylation
  • Middle Aged
  • Pregnancy
  • Selenium/urine
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical/urine
  • Water Supply


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