Human exposure to organic arsenic species from seafood

Vivien Taylor*, Britton Goodale, Andrea Raab, Tanja Schwerdtle, Ken Reimer, Sean Conklin, Margaret R. Karagas, Kevin A. Francesconi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

331 Citations (Scopus)


Seafood, including finfish, shellfish, and seaweed, is the largest contributor to arsenic (As) exposure in many human populations. In contrast to the predominance of inorganic As in water and many terrestrial foods, As in marine-derived foods is present primarily in the form of organic compounds. To date, human exposure and toxicological assessments have focused on inorganic As, while organic As has generally been considered to be non-toxic. However, the high concentrations of organic As in seafood, as well as the often complex As speciation, can lead to complications in assessing As exposure from diet.In this report, we evaluate the presence and distribution of organic As species in seafood, and combined with consumption data, address the current capabilities and needs for determining human exposure to these compounds. The analytical approaches and shortcomings for assessing these compounds are reviewed, with a focus on the best practices for characterization and quantitation. Metabolic pathways and toxicology of two important classes of organic arsenicals, arsenolipids and arsenosugars, are examined, as well as individual variability in absorption of these compounds. Although determining health outcomes or assessing a need for regulatory policies for organic As exposure is premature, the extensive consumption of seafood globally, along with the preliminary toxicological profiles of these compounds and their confounding effect on assessing exposure to inorganic As, suggests further investigations and process-level studies on organic As are needed to fill the current gaps in knowledge.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)266–282
Number of pages17
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date24 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2017

Bibliographical note

This paper, a product of the Collaborative on Food with Arsenic and associated Risk and Regulation (C-FARR), is supported by the Dartmouth College Toxic Metals Superfund Research Program through funds from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number 1R13ES026493-01 to C. Chen and Award Number P42ES007373 to B. Stanton, and the Children's Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Center at Dartmouth through funds from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number P01ES022832 and from the US EPA Award Number RD83544201 to M. Karagas. K.A. Francesconi support from Austrian Science Fund (FWF I2412-B21); B.Goodale from NIEHS Award Number F32ES025082 to B.Goodale; and T. Schwerdtle acknowledges DFG (German Research Foundation) grant number SCHW 903/10-1.


  • Arsenolipid
  • Arsenosugar
  • Organic arsenic
  • Seafood


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