This study was designed to assess the effects of exposure to arsenic in drinking water on visual and vibrotactile function in residents of the Bamen region of Inner Mongolia, China. Arsenic was measured by hydride generation atomic fluorescence. 321 participants were divided into three exposure groups– low (non-detectable-20), medium (100-300) and high (400-700 μg /l) arsenic in drinking water (AsW). Three visual tests were administered: acuity, contrast sensitivity and color discrimination (Lanthony's Desaturated 15 Hue Test). Vibration thresholds were measured with a vibrothesiometer. Vibration thresholds were significantly elevated in the high exposure group compared to other groups. Further analysis using a spline regression model suggested that the threshold for vibratory effects is between 150-170 μg /l AsW. These findings provide the first evidence that chronic exposure to arsenic in drinking water impairs vibrotactile thresholds. The results also indicate that arsenic affects neurological function well below the 1000 μg /l concentration reported by NRC (1999). No evidence of arsenic-related effects on visual function was found.

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