Skin cancer and inorganic arsenic: Uncertainty-status of risk

Kenneth G. Brown, How Ran Guo, Tsung Li Kuo, Howard L. Greene

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


The current U.S. EPA standard for inorganic arsenic in drinking water is 50 ppb (μg/L), dating to the National Interim Primary Drinking Water Regulation of 1976. The current EPA risk analysis predicts an increased lifetime skin cancer risk on the order of 3 or 4 per 1000 from chronic exposure at that concentration. Revision of the standard to only a few ppb, perhaps even less than I ppb, may be indicated by the EPA analysis to reduce the lifetime risk to an acceptable level. The cost to water utilities, and ultimately to their consumers, to conform to such a large reduction in the standard could easily reach several billion dollars, so it is particularly important to assess accurately the current risk and the risk reduction that would be achieved by a lower standard. This article addresses the major sources of uncertainty in the EPA analysis with respect to this objective. Specifically, it focuses on uncertainty and variability in the exposure estimates for the landmark study of Tseng and colleagues in Taiwan, analyzed using a reconstruction of the their exposure data. It is concluded that while the available dataset is suitable to establish the hazard of skin cancer, it is too highly summarized for reliable dose-response assessment. A new epidemiologic study is needed, designed for the requirements of dose response assessment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-42
Number of pages6
JournalRisk Analysis
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1997 Feb

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Physiology (medical)


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