Hair arsenic levels and prevalence of arsenicosis in three Cambodian provinces

Jamal Hisham HASHIM, Rozhan Syariff Mohamed RADZI, Syed Mohamed ALJUNID, Amrizal Muhammad NUR, Aniza ISMAIL, David BAGUMA, Suthipong STHIANNOPKAO, Kongkea PHAN, Ming Hung WONG, Vibol SAO, Mohamed Salleh Mohamed YASIN

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Natural, inorganic arsenic contamination of groundwater threatens the health of more than 100 million people worldwide, including residents of the densely populated river deltas of South and Southeast Asia. Contaminated groundwater from tube wells in Cambodia was discovered in 2001 leading to the detection of the first cases of arsenicosis in 2006. The most affected area was the Kandal Province. The main objective of this study was to determine the prevalence of arsenicosis in Cambodia based on acceptable criteria, and to investigate the use of hair arsenic as a biomarker not only for arsenicosis-related signs but also for associated symptoms. A cross-sectional epidemiological study of 616 respondents from 3 purposely selected provinces within the Mekong River basin of Cambodia was conducted. The Kandal Province was chosen as a high arsenic-contaminated area, while the Kratie Province and Kampong Cham Province were chosen as moderate and low arsenic-contaminated areas, respectively. The most prevalent sign of arsenicosis was hypomelanosis with a prevalence of 14.5% among all respondents and 32.4% among respondents with a hair arsenic level of ≥ 1. μg/g. This was followed by hyperkeratosis, hyperpigmentation and mee's lines. Results also suggest a 1.0. μg/g hair arsenic level to be a practical cut off point for an indication of an arsenic contaminated individual. This hair arsenic level, together with the presence of one or more of the classical signs of arsenicosis, seems to be a practical criteria for a confirmed diagnosis. Based on these criteria, the overall prevalence of arsenicosis for all provinces was found to be 16.1%, with Kandal Province recording the highest prevalence of 35.5%. This prevalence is comparatively high when compared to that of other affected countries. The association between arsenicosis and the use of Chinese traditional medicine also needs further investigation. Copyright © 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1210-1216
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date10 Jun 2013
Publication statusPublished - 01 Oct 2013


Hashim, J. H., Radzi, R. S. M., Aljunid, S. M., Nur, A. M., Ismail, A., Baguma, D., . . . Yasin, M. S. M. (2013). Hair arsenic levels and prevalence of arsenicosis in three Cambodian provinces. Science of The Total Environment, 463-464, 1210-1216. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2013.04.084


  • Arsenic
  • Arsenicosis
  • Hair
  • Cambodia


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