Determination of Lead and Arsenic in Tobacco and Cigarettes: An Important Issue of Public Health

By Lazarevic, Konstansa; Nikolic, Dejan et al. | Central European Journal of Public Health, March 2012 | Go to article overview

Determination of Lead and Arsenic in Tobacco and Cigarettes: An Important Issue of Public Health


Lazarevic, Konstansa, Nikolic, Dejan, Stosic, Ljiljana, Milutinovic, Suzana, Videnovic, Jelena, Bogdanovic, Dragan, Central European Journal of Public Health


SUMMARY

Contents of lead and arsenic were determined in 617 tobacco samples and 80 samples of cigarettes. The mean content of lead in tobacco was 0.93 µg/g (range 0.02-8.56 µg/g) and arsenic was 0.15 µg/g (range <0.02-2.04 µg/g). The mean content of lead in cigarettes was 1.26 µg/g (range 0.02-6.72 µg/g) and arsenic was 0.11 µg/g (range <0.02-0.71 µg/g). There was a large variability in lead and arsenic content among samples of tobacco and samples of cigarettes. Positive correlation between lead and arsenic contents in tobacco was found (r=0.22; p<0.0001).

Based on our data and data from literature we compare the content of lead and arsenic in tobacco and cigarettes in other studies and discuss the influence of smoking to lead and arsenic exposure and health.

In conclusion, at the same time with the implementation of tobacco use prevention programmes it is advisable to implement continuous monitoring of lead and arsenic in tobacco and cigarettes in order to reduce the health risk due to exposure of these metals.

Key words: tobacco, cigarette, lead, arsenic

INTRODUCTION

According to the data of WHO - in the 20th century, 100 million people have died from tobacco use (1). At the same time, studies were focused on quantitative and qualitative analyses of tobacco constituents potentially responsible for the negative health effects.

More than 4,000 chemicals have been isolated from tobacco (hydrocarbons, aldehydes, ketones, aromatic hydrocarbons, heavy metals including lead and arsenic). Lead and arsenic have been identified and measured both in tobacco and tobacco smoke (2-6).

It is observed that contents of lead (7-9) and arsenic (10-12) in biological samples of human population are much higher in smokers than those in non-smokers.

Lead and arsenic are classified as carcinogenic to humans or possibly carcinogenic to humans (group 1 or 2) (13), but also various other negative effects of lead and arsenic on human health have been recognized (14).

Human population is exposed to lead and arsenic from many sources (air, water, soils, foodstuffs, and anthropogenic sources) (6). Smoking is not the main source of lead and arsenic exposure for humans, but cigarette smoking influences lead and arsenic toxicity.

Arsenic is methylated and eliminated from the body by urine. Cigarette smoking lowers methylation capacity of arsenic (15) and elimination of arsenic from the body. Cigarette smoking also can act synergistically with arsenic exposure to cause DNA damage in lungs (16). Mortality risk from heart disease, skin lesion, bladder cancer, and lung cancer associated with exposure to arsenic is higher among smokers (17-20).

Lead circulates in the bloodstream and accumulates in tissues and bones, or is eliminated from the body, primarily in urine. The blood brain barrier of children and infants is relatively impermeable to lead but they are at high risk of accumulating lead in the brain and central nervous system which may cause neurodegeneration (21). Tobacco is an important source of lead in secondhand tobacco smokers (children and adolescents) in the United States. Blood levels of lead were 14% and 24% higher in children who lived with 1 or with 2 or more smokers than in children living with non-smokers (22).

Lead plays a significant role in tobacco toxicity, especially radioactive 2 1 OPb. 2 1 OPb is a product of 238U disintegration and its existence in tobacco depends on the tobacco origin and natural level of uranium in the soil where tobacco grows. In Italy, 210Pb dose from inhalation of cigarette smoke is much higher than the dose from ambient air (23).

Exposure to metals through tobacco depends on the amount of metal present in tobacco, a percentage that is transferred to the tobacco smoke and the percentage that is absorbed.

The aim of this paper is to present content of lead and arsenic in tobacco and cigarettes analysed in the Institute for Public Health Nis (Serbia), and data from studies around the world available. …

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