Profile of urinary arsenic metabolites during pregnancy

Claudia Hopenhayn, Bin Huang, Jay Christian, Cecilia Peralta, Catterina Ferreccio, Raja Atallah, David Kalman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


Chronic exposure to inorganic arsenic (In-As) from drinking water is associated with different health effects, including skin, lung, bladder, and kidney cancer as well as vascular and possibly reproductive effects. In-As is metabolized through the process of methalylation, resulting in the reproduction and excretion of methylated species, mainly monomethylarsenate (MMA) and dimethylarsenate (DMA). Because a large percentage of the dose is excreted in urine, the distribution of urinary In-As, MMA, and DMA is considered a useful indicator of methylation patterns in human populations. Several factors affect these patterns, including sex and exposure level. In this study, we investigated the profile of urinary In-As, MMA, and DMA of pregnant women. Periodic urine samples were collected from early to late pregnancy among 29 pregnant women living in Antofagasta, Chile, who drank tap water containing 40 μg/L In-As. The total urinary arsenic across four sampling periods increased with increasing weeks of gestation, from an initial mean value of 36.1 to a final value of 54.3 μg/L. This increase was mainly due to an increase in DMA, resulting in lower percentages of In-As and MMA and a higher percentage of DMA. Our findings indicate that among women exposed to moderate arsenic from drinking water during pregnancy, changes occur in the pattern of urinary arsenic excretion and metabolite distribution. The toxicologic significance of this is not clear, given recent evidence suggesting that intermediate methylated species may be highly toxic. Nevertheless, this study suggests that arsenic metabolism changes throughout the course of pregnancy, which in turn may have toxicologic effects on the developin fetus.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1888-1891
Number of pages4
JournalEnvironmental Health Perspectives
Issue number16
StatePublished - Dec 2003


  • Arsenic
  • Arsenic metabolism
  • Arsenic methylation
  • Chile
  • Pregnancy
  • Urinary arsenic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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