Recent study concludes that even low levels of arsenic can cause kidney disease

In its inorganic form, the element arsenic is highly toxic. For decades, scientists have known that high levels of the element are harmful to the kidneys, which filter toxins from your blood. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) limits the allowable amount of arsenic in drinking water to only 10 parts per billion, which is equal to only 10 drops of water in a full swimming pool. While the amount seems insignificant, the results of a study suggest that even very low levels of arsenic can still cause kidney disease.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Cellular Physiology, involved two Texas Tech University (TTU) researchers: Kamaleshwar Singh, an associate professor in The Institute of Environmental and Human Health at TTU, and Yu-Wei Chang, a doctoral candidate. Both have been studying the issue for two years.

Arsenic exposure and kidney damage

According to the researchers, they may have discovered a method to treat arsenic-related kidney disease using a drug that is already approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, the drug is often used for a different purpose.

For the study, Singh and Chang expose cells from healthy human kidneys to different concentrations of arsenic and monitor the effects. Chang explained that arsenic contamination is “a serious, worldwide issue,” and that people are unknowingly exposed to the toxin on a daily basis.

You can be exposed to inorganic arsenic by:

This is alarming because arsenic can damage the kidneys, the organs that eliminate toxins and wastes from the body. Kidney damage is linked to severe side effects, and the researchers stress the importance of educating the public about the “potential risk of low arsenic concentrations on human health.”

Earlier studies have revealed that arsenic exposure is also linked to different forms of renal dysfunction. Usually, kidney cells can regrow to recover the organ’s function following an acute kidney injury.

However, chronic exposure to arsenic and other toxicants repeatedly injures the kidneys, which may cause chronic kidney disease. This is an irreversible condition and to date, there is no effective treatment for the disease.

Chronic kidney disease is progressive, which means it eventually causes kidney failure. In severe cases, chronic kidney disease may cause kidney fibrosis, wherein kidney cells start producing dangerously high levels of a protein that prevents the kidneys from filtering blood. When a person has kidney fibrosis, toxins are no longer removed from their bloodstream.

While the study also helped the researchers identify an FDA-approved drug that can reverse fibrosis-related changes in kidney cells back to normal kidney cells, people must still exercise caution, especially since certain drugs may be linked to negative side effects.

The researchers added that the FDA-approved drug is currently used to cure blood cancer.

Singh and Chang said that achieving the results in a laboratory is worlds apart from achieving them in a real-world situation. Before they can propose the use of the medication for kidney disease treatment, the researchers must clinically test both the dose and the efficacy of the drug in live patients with kidney fibrosis caused by arsenic exposure.

Sing added that he is applying for funding from the National Institutes of Health to advance the research. Additionally, Singh is working on a collaboration with the O’Brien Kidney Research Core Center at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

However, while remedies for conditions like kidney disease sounds like good news, you must exercise caution with anything that claims to be a “magic bullet.” The best way to ensure your overall health is to make healthy lifestyle changes such as exercising regularly and following a healthy diet.

Visit to read more articles with tips on how to limit your exposure to arsenic and other toxins.

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