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Assessment of health risks due to arsenic from iron ore lumps in a beach setting

Swartjes, Frank A., Janssen, Paul J.C.M.
The Science of the total environment 2016 v.563-564 pp. 405-412
acceptable daily intake, arsenic, bioavailability, body weight, carcinogens, children, coasts, exposure scenario, human health, humans, ingestion, risk, risk characterization, risk management, soil, Netherlands
In 2011, an artificial hook-shaped peninsula of 128ha beach area was created along the Dutch coast, containing thousands of iron ore lumps, which include arsenic from natural origin. Elemental arsenic and inorganic arsenic induce a range of toxicological effects and has been classified as proven human carcinogens. The combination of easy access to the beach and the presence of arsenic raised concern about possible human health effects by the local authorities. The objective of this study is therefore to investigate human health risks from the presence of arsenic-containing iron ore lumps in a beach setting. The exposure scenarios underlying the human health-based risk limits for contaminated land in The Netherlands, based on soil material ingestion and a residential setting, are not appropriate. Two specific exposure scenarios related to the playing with iron ore lumps on the beach (‘sandcastle building’) are developed on the basis of expert judgement, relating to children in the age of 2 to 12years, i.e., a worst case exposure scenario and a precautionary scenario. Subsequently, exposure is calculated by the quantification of the following factors: hand loading, soil-mouth transfer effectivity, hand-mouth contact frequency, contact surface, body weight and the relative oral bioavailability factor. By lack of consensus on a universal reference dose for arsenic for use in the stage of risk characterization, three different types of assessments have been evaluated: on the basis of the current Provisional Tolerable Daily Intake (PTWI), on the basis of the Benchmark Dose Lower limit (BMDL), and by a comparison of exposure from the iron ore lumps with background exposure. It is concluded, certainly from the perspective of the conservative exposure assessment, that unacceptable human health risks due to exposure to arsenic from the iron ore lumps are unlikely and there is no need for risk management actions.