This study was designed to assess the effects of exposure to arsenic in drinking water on neurosensory function. A questionnaire including neurological signs and symptoms and a brief neurological exam consisting of pinprick testing of the arms and legs and knee-jerk test were administered to 321 residents of the Bamen region of Inner Mongolia, China. Arsenic in water was measured by hydride generation atomic fluorescence. Participants were divided into three exposure groups—low (non-detectible-20), medium (100–300) and high (400–700 μg/l) arsenic. Significant group differences were observed in pinprick scores for all four limbs. Results indicate that arsenic alters pinprick (pain) thresholds at well-water concentrations as low as 400 μg/l, well below the 1000 μg/l threshold for neurological effect specified by NRC (1999). Regression models suggest that a 50% increase in pinprick score is associated with a 71–159 ppb increase in arsenic concentration.

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