Assessment of human exposure to copper: a case study using the NHEXAS database

J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2006 Sep;16(5):397-409. doi: 10.1038/sj.jea.7500462. Epub 2005 Oct 26.


Copper is an essential trace element and adverse health effects can potentially be associated with both very low and very high intakes. Accurate estimates of inhalation and ingestion (food and drinking water) exposures are therefore needed in order to realistically assess any effects of the distribution of copper intakes within the general population. The work presented here demonstrates an application of a customized subset of the MENTOR/SHEDS-4M computational system (Modeling ENvironment for TOtal Risk studies, employing the Stochastic Human Exposure and Dose Simulation approach, for Multimedia, Multipathway, Multiroute exposures to Multiple co-occurring contaminants. The application utilized data from the National Human Exposure Assessment Survey (NHEXAS) for USEPA Region V as well as from a variety of other available databases. The case study, using a statistical population-based modeling framework, was performed for Eaton County, MI. The results of the simulations, aggregated for six age subgroups of the general population, suggest that food intake is the major pathway for total copper exposure, while drinking water can have significant contributions at the tail of the distribution of intakes. Specifically, it was estimated that over 80% of the county population received potential doses of copper from food that were lower than the Institute of Medicine (IOM) Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) value of 900 microg/day. Furthermore, the total combined potential dose from food and water was only about two times greater than the recommended value only for individuals with intakes in the range above the 99th percentile of both food and water intakes. The values were well below the upper tolerable intake value of 10,000 microg/day. The inhalation route consistently acted as only a minor contributor to the total exposure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Copper / analysis*
  • Copper / toxicity*
  • Databases, Factual
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Food Contamination / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Middle Aged
  • Water Pollutants / analysis*


  • Water Pollutants
  • Copper