Global impact of atmospheric arsenic on health risk: 2005 to 2015

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Atmospheric Sciences


Arsenic is a toxic pollutant commonly found in the environment. Most of the previous studies on arsenic pollution have primarily focused on arsenic contamination in groundwater. In this study, we examine the impact on human health from atmospheric arsenic on the global scale. We first develop an improved global atmospheric arsenic emission inventory and connect it to a global model (Goddard Earth Observing System [GEOS]-Chem). Model evaluation using observational data from a variety of sources shows the model successfully reproduces the spatial distribution of atmospheric arsenic around the world. We found that for 2005, the highest airborne arsenic concentrations were found over Chile and eastern China, with mean values of 8.34 and 5.63 ng/m3, respectively. By 2015, the average atmospheric arsenic concentration in India (4.57 ng/m3) surpassed that in eastern China (4.38 ng/m3) due to the fast increase in coal burning in India. Our calculation shows that China has the largest population affected by cancer risk due to atmospheric arsenic inhalation in 2005, which is again surpassed by India in 2015. Based on potential exceedance of healthbased limits, we find that the combined effect by including both atmospheric and groundwater arsenic may significantly enhance the risks, due to carcinogenic and noncarcinogenic effects. Therefore, this study clearly implies the necessity in accounting for both atmospheric and groundwater arsenic in future management.

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Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America