High probability of heart disease among children exposed to arsenic

Arturo Sanchez Jimenez, La Jornada. Sunday June 19, 2016, p. 29 (Texto original)

Children exposed to arsenic have high probabilities of heart disease typical of older adults, like symptoms of high blood pressure onset and vascular inflammation, according to a study by the Center for Research and Advanced Studies of the National Polytechnic Institute (in Spanish: Centro de Investigación y de Estudios Avanzados del Instituto Politécnico Nacional).

To carry out this project, the first of its kind to demonstrate the cardiovascular effects of arsenic on children, a research group evaluated the health of 270 preschool children with an average age of five years in the community of Zimapán, Hidalgo, an area recognized to have arsenic-contaminated water, resulting from its naturally occurring presence in the Earth´s crust.

Luz Maria del Razo, researcher at the Department of Toxicology and project leader, explained that children are of particular interest because they are more vulnerable than adults to the consumption of contaminated water because of their physical conditions.

The specialist explained that the research was divided into two stages. In the first, blood tests were performed to find biomarkers that indicated vascular damage, such as vascular adhesion molecules.  Urine samples were collected to evaluate arsenic consumption. Each child was asked to provide a sample of their drinking water.

One of the first things that was observed from these tests were markers that indicated vascular damage. Most children exposed to arsenic had higher fat deposition in their intima-media carotid, an indicator that they will be more likely to suffer vascular problems in adulthood.

The second stage of the study was to directly evaluate cardiac disorders and blood pressure. With support from a cardiology clinic, each child was administered an ultrasonography to assess cardiac structure and function. In this phase their blood pressure was also taken.

With this study we identified that 8 percent of our population had cardiac hypertrophy (abnormal increase in size of the heart muscle), a disease that is typical in the elderly, said the researcher.

The results showed that higher arsenic concentrations caused a change to children´s heart geometry or cardiac structure, basically increasing left ventricular mass- the area in which the heart pumping system receives the most blood pressure. These conclusions then could be related to the data collected by measuring blood pressure.

Del Razo said that 35 percent of children tested had prehypertension. A person who shows these conditions has a 90 percent chance of developing high blood pressure.