Long-term low-level arsenic exposure is associated with poorer neuropsychological functioning: A project FRONTIER study

Sid E. O'Bryant, Melissa Edwards, Chloe V. Menon, Gordon Gong, Robert Barber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

148 Scopus citations


Exposure to elements in groundwater (toxic or beneficial) is commonplace yet, outside of lead and mercury, little research has examined the impact of many commonly occurring environmental exposures on mental abilities during the aging process. Inorganic arsenic is a known neurotoxin that has both neurodevelopmental and neurocognitive consequences. The aim of this study was to examine the potential association between current and long-term arsenic exposure and detailed neuropsychological functioning in a sample of rural-dwelling adults and elders. Data were analyzed from 434 participants (133 men and 301 women) of Project FRONTIER, a community-based participatory research study of the epidemiology of health issues of rural-dwelling adults and elders. The results of the study showed that GIS-based groundwater arsenic exposure (current and long-term) was significantly related to poorer scores in language, visuospatial skills, and executive functioning. Additionally, long-term low-level exposure to arsenic was significantly correlated to poorer scores in global cognition, processing speed and immediate memory. The finding of a correlation between arsenic and the domains of executive functioning and memory is of critical importance as these are cognitive domains that reflect the earliest manifestations of Alzheimer's disease. Additional work is warranted given the population health implications associated with long-term low-level arsenic exposure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)861-874
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2011


  • Arsenic
  • Chronic exposure
  • Cognition
  • Environmental exposure
  • Rural health


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