Effects of sex on the levels of metals and metalloids in the hair of a group of healthy Spanish adolescents (13 to 16 years old)




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Human biomonitoring can be a reliable tool to protect the health of the citizens of major urban environments. Human hair may be an invaluable specimen to determine chronic exposure to any environmental contaminant in an individual, especially in the young population. However, different factors including a lack of studies that have established reference values for metals and metalloids (trace elements) in human scalp hair make the use of this matrix controversial. A monitoring study was performed to establish possible normal or tentative reference values of Al, As, Be, Cd, Cr, Cu, Hg, Mn, Pb, Sn, Ti, Tl and Zn in adolescents’ (aged 13–16) hair who have lived since birth in Alcalá de Henares, Madrid region (Spain). Strict inclusion criteria were followed to study the effect of sex on the hair metal content, and the levels of the above contaminants were also studied in park topsoils from Alcalá de Henares. Scalp hair samples were collected from 96 healthy adolescents (28 boys and 68 girls), and reference values were calculated following the recommendations of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry. The levels of Cd, Cu, Pb, Sn and Zn in hair of adolescents from Alcalá de Henares show a sex dependency, being significantly higher in female participants. Sex should be a factor taken into account when developing future reference values and hair metal content. Soil metal contamination was not correlated with the levels found in hair. To conclude, the values of metals and metalloids here analysed and discussed could be considered as tentative reference values for Spanish adolescents aged 13–16 years living in the Madrid region, and may be used to identify the level of exposure of adolescents in this Spanish region to the various metals and metalloids.


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Pena-Fernandez, A., Lobo-Bedmar, M. C. and Gonzalez-Munoz, M. J. (2017) Effects of sex on the levels of metals and metalloids in the hair of a group of healthy Spanish adolescents (13 to 16 years old). Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 24 (30), pp. 23666-23678


Research Institute

Leicester Institute for Pharmaceutical Innovation - From Molecules to Practice (LIPI)