Metallome deregulation and health-related impacts due to long-term exposure to recent volcanic ash deposits: New chemical and isotopic insights

Sci Total Environ. 2022 Jul 10:829:154383. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.154383. Epub 2022 Mar 8.


Volcanic ash exposure can lead to significant health risks. Damage to the respiratory and pulmonary systems are the most evident toxic side effects although the causes of these symptoms remain unclear. Conversely, the effects on other organs remain largely under-explored, limiting our understanding of the long-term volcanic ash-related risk at the whole-body scale. The metallome i.e. metal concentrations and isotopic compositions within the body, is suspected to be affected by volcanic ash exposure, having thus the potential for capturing some specificities of ash toxicity. However, the means by and extent to which the metallome is affected at the entire body scale and how the consequent chemical and isotopic deregulations correlate with pathophysiological dysfunctions are currently poorly understood. Here, we adopt a transdisciplinary approach combining high precision chemical analyses (major and trace element concentrations) and CuZn isotope measurements in seven organs and two biological fluids of isogenic mice (C57BL/6) exposed to eruption products from La Soufrière de Guadeloupe (Eastern Carribean), in tandem with biological parameters including physiological and morphological data. Based on principal component analysis, we show that after one month of exposure to volcanic ash deposits, the mice metallome; originally organ-specific and isotopically-typified, is highly disrupted as shown for example by heavy metal accumulation in testis (e.g., Fe, Zn) and Cu, Zn isotopic divergence in liver, intestine and blood. These metallomic variations are correlated with early testicular defects and might reflect the warning signs of premature (entero)hepatic impairments that may seriously affect fertility and favor the emergence of liver diseases after prolonged exposure. Monitoring the temporal evolution of the Cu and Zn isotope compositions seems to be a promising technique to identify the main biological processes and vital functions that are vulnerable to environmental volcanogenic pollutants although this will require further validation on human subjects.

Keywords: Cu-Zn isotopes; In-vivo assays; La Soufrière de Guadeloupe volcano; Metallome; Volcanic ash deposits.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Isotopes
  • Male
  • Metals*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Volcanic Eruptions* / adverse effects


  • Isotopes
  • Metals