Validity of hair mineral testing

Biol Trace Elem Res. 2002 Summer;87(1-3):1-28. doi: 10.1385/BTER:87:1-3:001.


The variance of testing was compared between the College of American Pathologists clinical survey and that of a recent review about hair mineral testing. The review suggested that the accuracy of hair mineral testing was unreliable. In general, there was a greater range of variance in the College of American Pathologists testing results. These latter results are based on laboratory testing and are used as a "yardstick" to determine if a laboratory passes or fails that analyte and are considered a "gold standard." An extract, which resulted from a method that avoided the washing step, was compared among five laboratories. Very good precision resulted, indicating that the varied washing steps used by the laboratories in a recent review were probably the source of much variance. Analysis of hair analysis seemed to yield important information in several historical or forensic cases involving Ludwig von Beethoven, Napoleon Bonaparte, ex-US-presidents Zachary Taylor and Andrew Jackson, and Charles Hall, an Arctic explorer. Several elements that were reviewed, including arsenic, cadmium, cobalt, germanium, lead, lithium, manganese, mercury, nickel, and thallium, showed relationships between body burden, dosage, and exposure or toxicity. Evidence of toxicity could not be found by measuring hair aluminum or vanadium. Chromium, selenium, and zinc seemed to have nutritional value. Ratios of hair elements with clinical importance could not be found.

Publication types

  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Famous Persons
  • Forensic Medicine
  • Hair / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Minerals / analysis*
  • Reproducibility of Results


  • Minerals