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Open Access Open Badges Research article

In utero exposure to low dose arsenic via drinking water impairs early life lung mechanics in mice

Kathryn A Ramsey12*, Alexander N Larcombe12, Peter D Sly3 and Graeme R Zosky12

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Clinical Sciences, Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, 100 Roberts Road, Subiaco, WA, 6008, Australia

2 Centre for Child Health Research, University of Western Australia, 100 Roberts Road, Subiaco, WA, 6008, Australia

3 Queensland Children’s Medical Research Institute, University of Queensland, Level 4, Foundation Building, Herston Road, Herston, QLD, 4029, Australia

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BMC Pharmacology and Toxicology 2013, 14:13  doi:10.1186/2050-6511-14-13

Published: 18 February 2013



Exposure to arsenic via drinking water is a significant environmental issue affecting millions of people around the world. Exposure to arsenic during foetal development has been shown to impair somatic growth and increase the risk of developing chronic respiratory diseases. The aim of this study was to determine if in utero exposure to low dose arsenic via drinking water is capable of altering lung growth and postnatal lung mechanics.


Pregnant C57BL/6 mice were given drinking water containing 0, 10 (current World Health Organisation (WHO) maximum contaminant level) or 100μg/L arsenic from gestational day 8 to birth. Birth outcomes and somatic growth were monitored. Plethysmography and the forced oscillation technique were used to collect measurements of lung volume, lung mechanics, pressure-volume curves and the volume dependence of lung mechanics in male and female offspring at two, four, six and eight weeks of age.


In utero exposure to low dose arsenic via drinking water resulted in low birth weight and impaired parenchymal lung mechanics during infancy. Male offspring were more susceptible to the effects of arsenic on growth and lung mechanics than females. All alterations to lung mechanics following in utero arsenic exposure were recovered by adulthood.


Exposure to arsenic at the current WHO maximum contaminant level in utero impaired somatic growth and the development of the lungs resulting in alterations to lung mechanics during infancy. Deficits in growth and lung development in early life may contribute to the increased susceptibility of developing chronic respiratory disease in arsenic exposed human populations.

Animal model; Arsenic; Environmental exposure; Growth & development; Lung function