Arsenic in drinking water may cause heart thickening in young adults

Arsenic in drinking water may lead to thickening of the heart in young adults, according to a new study. The research, which was recently published in an American Heart Association journal, found that the thickening impacted the heart's main pumping chamber, leaving young adults at risk for future cardiac health issues.

Though municipal water supplies found in cities are regulated and regularly tested, drinking water sourced from private water wells, which are not regulated, may not be properly tested and treated. In these cases, the water may contain unacceptably high levels of harmful substances, including arsenic.

According to the World Health Organization, arsenic is naturally present at high levels in the groundwater found in many countries. Drinking water, as well as crops grown with contaminated drinking water, present the greatest risk when it comes to consuming arsenic.

Past research has linked the long-term consumption of water and food that contains arsenic with skin lesions, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes, as well as cognitive issues in very young children and premature death in young adults. The study recently published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging reveals one way arsenic in drinking water may be harming the health of young people.

The researchers analyzed data from the Strong Heart Family Study, which looked at cardiovascular risk factors in Native American populations. In participants who had a two-fold increase in arsenic urine levels, the team found a 47-percent increase in left ventricular thickening risk, which jumped to 58-percent in participants who had high blood pressure. The study's participants had an average age of 30.7 years.