Arsenic in Drinking Water Could Be Risk Factor For Diabetes

Higher levels of arsenic in drinking water could be a risk factor for diabetes, according to new research out of Johns Hopkins. Eye on Health checked to see how arsenic levels in the Las Vegas water supply measure up.

The study looked at whether high levels of arsenic in drinking water increased one's chances of becoming diabetic. Scientists concluded that the toxic nature of arsenic disrupts the way the body uses insulin. And over time, may lead to diabetes.

J.C. Davis with the Southern Nevada Water Authority says the level of arsenic here is much lower than what the government allows -- which is ten-parts-per-billion.

"Here in Southern Nevada, the amount we have -- which is naturally occurring from the Colorado River, is about 2.5 ppb. So about a quarter of that very strict standard," said Davis.

Residents in rural areas further to the north, who rely more on well-water, may be consuming higher levels of arsenic.

"It happens to be where there's arsenic in the ground and therefore in the ground water. Not an issue down here -- more of an issue as you go a little farther north," said Davis.

Where diabetes is concerned, the findings for arsenic make sense, says Las Vegas endocrinologist, Fred Toffel. After all, it is a poison. He says people with well-water might consider having their supply analyzed for high levels of arsenic.

But otherwise, he does not attribute the skyrocketing case load of diabetes to drinking water.

"If you really look at the factors that contribute to the onset of diabetes, this really is a low-lyer on the radar screen. I still think the lack of exercise and the over indulgence in eating still far outweighs any arsenic that we're getting from the local water supply that's causative to diabetes," said Dr. Toffel.

Dr. Toffel says arsenic or other toxins may help push someone who's pre-diabetic over the edge. For information to more about the new research, click here.


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