Purpose of review: Metals play major roles in children's health and are associated with negative health outcomes via deficiency, overload, or toxicity. Constantly evolving analytical technology can provide new insight into how metal metabolism and exposure biology are intertwined in a range of biological matrices.
Recent findings: Exposure can occur prenatally as many metals cross the placental barrier. The placenta is permeable to many metal species, some through tightly regulated transporters, and others because of a limited capacity for detoxification. Postbirth, metal exposure continues to exert long-term health effects, ranging from exposure to exogenous heavy metals, such as lead, to overload of otherwise essential metals, including manganese. Increasing evidence supports the existence of critical developmental windows when susceptibility to toxicants and nutritional deficiencies is highest. Elemental imaging technology provides microspatial information on metal uptake and retention across tissue architecture, which provides important insights into exposure and biologic response.
Summary: Imaging the spatial distribution of elements, both essential and toxic, provides information that bulk measures cannot, including cell-specific distributions and timing of exposure.