Risk of internal cancers from arsenic in drinking water

Knashawn H. Morales, Louise M. Ryan, Tsung Li Kuo, Meei Maan Wu, Chien Jen Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

369 Citations (Scopus)


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is under a congressional mandate to revise its current standard for arsenic in drinking water. We present a risk assessment for cancers of the bladder, liver, and lung from exposure to arsenic in water, based on data from 42 villages in an arseniasisendemic region of Taiwan. We calculate excess lifetime risk estimates for several variations of the generalized linear model and for the multistage-Weibull model. Risk estimates are sensitive to the model choice, to whether or not a comparison population is used to define the unexposed disease mortality rates, and to whether the comparison population is all of Taiwan or just the southwestern region. Some factors that may affect risk could not be evaluated quantitatively: the ecologic nature of the data, the nutritional status of the study population, and the dietary intake of arsenic. Despite all of these sources of uncertainty, however, our analysis suggests that the current standard of 50 μg/L is associated with a substantial increased risk of cancer and is not sufficiently protective of public health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)655-661
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Health Perspectives
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Bladder cancer
  • Generalized linear model
  • Lifetime death risk
  • Lung cancer
  • Margin of exposure
  • Multistage-Weibull

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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