A scalable workflow to characterize the human exposome

Nat Commun. 2021 Sep 22;12(1):5575. doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-25840-9.


Complementing the genome with an understanding of the human exposome is an important challenge for contemporary science and technology. Tens of thousands of chemicals are used in commerce, yet cost for targeted environmental chemical analysis limits surveillance to a few hundred known hazards. To overcome limitations which prevent scaling to thousands of chemicals, we develop a single-step express liquid extraction and gas chromatography high-resolution mass spectrometry analysis to operationalize the human exposome. We show that the workflow supports quantification of environmental chemicals in human plasma (200 µL) and tissue (≤100 mg) samples. The method also provides high resolution, sensitivity and selectivity for exposome epidemiology of mass spectral features without a priori knowledge of chemical identity. The simplicity of the method can facilitate harmonization of environmental biomonitoring between laboratories and enable population level human exposome research with limited sample volume.

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

  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Environmental Pollutants / analysis
  • Environmental Pollutants / standards
  • Exposome*
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Humans
  • Metabolomics
  • Reference Standards
  • Workflow*


  • Environmental Pollutants