Major Limitations in Using Element Concentrations in Hair as Biomarkers of Exposure to Toxic and Essential Trace Elements in Children

By Skroder, Helena; Kippler, Maria et al. | Environmental Health Perspectives, June 2017 | Go to article overview

Major Limitations in Using Element Concentrations in Hair as Biomarkers of Exposure to Toxic and Essential Trace Elements in Children


Skroder, Helena, Kippler, Maria, Nermell, Barbro, Tofail, Fahmida, Levi, Michael, Rahman, Syed Moshfiqur, Raqib, Rubhana, Vahter, Marie, Environmental Health Perspectives


Introduction

Concentrations of environmental contaminants in human hair have been extensively used to assess the individual exposure (Barbosa et al. 2013; Gibson 1980; Rodrigues et al. 2008; Schuhmacher et al. 1991; Wilhelm et al. 1994). In particular, several trace elements interact with sulfhydryl groups in the hair keratin (Hinners et al. 1974), and may therefore be found in hair at higher concentrations than in other biomarker media such as plasma, whole blood, and urine (Olmedo et al. 2010). Hair sampling offers several advantages in human biomonitoring, particularly for children because the sampling is noninvasive, does not require medical personnel or a medical clinic, and the hair samples can be stored and transported at room temperature. Also, the concentrations in hair reflect fairly long-term exposure and may pinpoint the actual time of an acute exposure, which has been repeatedly demonstrated, for example, for arsenic (As) (Koons and Peters 1994; Smith 1964; Stenehjem et al. 2007; Toribara et al. 1982). Hair may also be a useful biomarker of certain elements that occur in different chemical forms in the environment. For example, inorganic As, the most toxic form, but not the much less toxic organic As compounds prevalent in seafood, is incorporated into hair (Raab and Feldmann 2005). Recently, manganese (Mn) in hair has become an increasingly popular biomarker of exposure (Eastman et al. 2013; Gil et al. 2011; Haynes et al. 2015; Kordas et al. 2010; Lucchini et al. 2012; Wright et al. 2006), despite that it seldom correlates with Mn concentrations in blood, the most commonly used biomarker of absorbed dose or status (Gil et al. 2011; Mora et al. 2015; Rodrigues et al. 2008). However, the situation in children has not been thoroughly assessed.

Besides the incorporation in hair through the bloodstream (internal dose), metals and other trace elements may be present in hair due to external contamination from air, dust, water, or hygiene products and cosmetics (Frisch and Schwartz 2002). Washing procedures for collected hair samples prior to analysis have shown varying results (Eastman et al. 2013), and excessive washing may even remove elements from the interior of the hair (Kempson and Skinner 2012). As a consequence, the value of various trace elements in hair as biomarkers of the actual absorbed dose has been questioned (Rodrigues et al. 2008; Wolowiec et al. 2013). Still, few validation studies have been performed. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the suitability of several different trace element concentrations in children's hair for assessment of exposure to, or internal dose of, multiple toxic [As, Mn, cadmium (Cd), lead (Pb)] and essential elements, including magnesium (Mg), calcium (Ca), iron (Fe), cobalt (Co), copper (Cu), zinc (Zn), selenium (Se), and molybdenum (Mo).

Materials and Methods

Study Design

This study was based on our prospective mother-child cohort with the overarching aim to elucidate effects of arsenic and other environmental pollutants on pregnancy outcomes and child health and development. The cohort was nested in a population-based randomized food and micronutrient supplementation trial in pregnancy (MINIMat; n = 4,436), carried out between November 2001 and October 2003 in a rural area southeast of Dhaka, Bangladesh (Persson et al. 2012), at which time it was realized that elevated arsenic concentrations in the wells were prevalent. At the follow-up of the children at 10 years of age (Rahman et al. 2016), we collected hair samples for measurement of concentrations of multiple toxic and essential elements (Mg, Ca, Mn, Fe, Co, Cu, Zn, As, Se, Mo, Cd, and Pb). For evaluation of their use as exposure biomarkers (internal dose), we compared these with previously measured concentrations of the elements in blood (erythrocyte fraction) and urine (Ahmed et al. 2014), collected on average 5.0 [+ or -] 3.2 months earlier (median 6 months) (Mannan et al. …

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