Human nails and teeth as time-resolved archives of heavy me-tal(loid) exposure via laser-ablation mass spectrometry (LA-ICPMS)

Theme: Environmental Pollution

Main Supervisor:

Wolfgang Muller

Earth Sciences, RHUL

Second Supervisor:

Chris Harrington

INHS SAS, Trace Element Lab, Supra-Regional-Assay Service

Project Description:

Improved toxicity risk assessments of pollutants are obtained via human biomonitoring, which typically uses blood or urine. Because this is ethically problematic with children/adolescents, non-invasive biomonitoring-methods utilizing nails or shed teeth require development.

Previous As-exposure monitoring (SW-England, Portugal) using bulk finger/toenails validated their usage, with elevated As toenail concentrations (≤45× compared to control group) strongly correlating with exogenous As. Moreover, toenail As, Pb etc. levels are correlated with biomarkers of immunological/genotoxic effect.

Spatially-resolved analysis by LA-ICPMS can be applied to assess the spatial/temporal heterogeneity of nails or (milk)teeth, and can reconstruct exposure time-series via their sequential growth. This studentship proposal utilizes LA-ICPMS to investigate the biomonitoring requirement related to the recent lowering of blood-lead-levels, particularly for children/adolesents given Pb’s neurotoxicty.

Policy Impact of Research:

Who will benefit? Wider public;
Children who are particularly vulnerable to heavy metal exposure (neurotoxic Pb); Policy makers (UK HPA, US EPA); Health care professionals.

How will they benefit? New, validated method for establishing trace element exposure of vulnerable populations; Publications.


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