Mechanisms of action for arsenic in cardiovascular toxicity and implications for risk assessment

Mandeep S. Sidhu, Karan P. Desai, Heather N. Lynch, Lorenz R. Rhomberg, Barbara D. Beck, Ferdinand J. Venditti

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


The possibility of an association between inorganic arsenic (iAs) exposure and cardiovascular outcomes has received increasing attention in the literature over the past decade. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) is currently revising its Integrated Risk Assessment System (IRIS) review of iAs, and one of the non-cancer endpoints of interest is cardiovascular disease (CVD). Despite the increased interest in this area, substantial gaps remain in the available information, particularly regarding the mechanism of action (MOA) by which iAs could cause or exacerbate CVD. Few studies specifically address the plausibility of an association between iAs and CVD at the low exposure levels which are typical in the United States (i.e., below 100. μg As/L in drinking water). We have conducted a review and evaluation of the animal, mechanistic, and human data relevant to the potential MOAs of iAs and CVD. Specifically, we evaluated the most common proposed MOAs, which include disturbance of endothelial function and hepatic dysfunction. Our analysis of the available evidence indicates that there is not a well-established MOA for iAs in the development or progression of CVD. Few human studies of the potential MOAs have addressed plausibility at low doses and the applicability of extrapolation from animal studies to humans is questionable. However, the available evidence indicates that regardless of the specific MOA, the effects of iAs on physiological processes at the cellular level appear to operate via a threshold mechanism. This finding is consistent with the lack of association of CVD with iAs exposure in humans at levels below 100. μg/L, particularly when considering important exposure and risk modifiers such as nutrition and genetics. Based on this analysis, we conclude that there are no data supporting a linear dose-response relationship between iAs and CVD, indicating this relationship has a threshold.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)78-99
Number of pages22
StatePublished - May 4 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Arsenic
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Cardiovascular toxicity
  • Mechanism of action

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology


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