Monitoring heavy metal contents in food and hair in a sample of young Spanish subjects

For most people the main route of exposure to the toxic elements is through the diet. Consequently, information concerning dietary intake is of the utmost importance in being able to assess risks to human health. The goal of this study was to intend to assess the usefulness of hair as a biomonitor of the mineral status in young adults. Daily intakes of selected toxic and essential mineral elements were evaluated using a food frequency questionnaire. In addition, the levels of these same elements in hair samples were measured by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry and inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectrometry. The contents of the essential elements in the study population were all well above Spanish recommendations for adult males and females. The estimated intakes of toxic elements were appreciably below the respective PTWIs, indicating that these intake levels do not pose a health concern for this group. Significant differences in hair metal levels were observed between the men and the women, who were in the same age group. Interestingly, no correlation was found between trace element intakes and the corresponding levels in the hair. In conclusion, hair is only limited usefulness as a means of estimating the nutritional status of the essential and toxic elements considered.

M.J. González-Muñoz, A. Peña, I. Meseguer (Food and Chemical Toxicology 46 (2008))