Environmental and dietary determinants of metal exposure in four-year-old children from a cohort located in an industrial area (Asturias, Northern Spain)

Environ Res. 2022 Nov;214(Pt 2):113862. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2022.113862. Epub 2022 Jul 16.


Urine samples from four-year-old children located in a heavily industrialized zone in Asturias (Spain) were collected between 2009 and 2012 (n = 334). Vanadium (V; median 54 μg/g creatinine), cobalt (Co; 1.0 μg/g c.), nickel (Ni; 3.8 μg/g c.), copper (Cu; 22 μg/g c.), zinc (Zn; 590 μg/g c.), arsenic (As; 64 μg/g c.), selenium (Se; 49 μg/g c.), molybdenum (Mo; 110 μg/g c.), cadmium (Cd; 0.27 μg/g c.), antimony (Sb; 1.0 μg/g c.), cesium (Cs; 14 μg/g c.), barium (Ba; 2.6 μg/g c.), thallium (Tl; 0.55 μg/g c.) and lead (Pb; 1.9 μg/g c.) were analysed. Comparison with children from other sites showed that this Asturias cohort was characterized by high levels of V, As, Sb, Cs and Tl. The concentrations of Co, Ni, Zn, Cu, Mo, Se, Cd, Ba and Pb were within the range of other cohorts. Terrestrial dietary items were most strongly related to increased urinary concentrations of metals in children, e.g., red meat with Ba and Ni, pasta/cereal with Ni and Zn, sweets with Zn, Co, and Cu, eggs with Mo, Cd, and Cs, and dairy products with Co and Sb. Seafood was the second group of dietary items significantly related to increased metals, e.g., shellfish with Ba, Cs, Pb, and V, fatty fish with As, and lean fish with As and Se. In contrast, higher fruit intake was significantly associated with decreased Cu and Sb, and higher legume intake with decreased Cu, Se and Cs. Higher intakes of other dietary items also led to significant decreases in some metals, such as vegetables and lower concentrations of Se and Mo, and dairy products with decreases in Cu and As. These negative correlations implied very low concentrations of the mentioned metals in these foods. Higher exposure to traffic was associated with higher concentrations of Ba, present in brake components. Children living outside urban areas had higher concentrations of Se. No association of metals with smoking in the family was found.

Keywords: Children exposure; Metals and seafood; Metals in urine; Oil pollution metals; Red meat consumption and urinary metals; Traffic exposure and urinary metals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arsenic* / urine
  • Cadmium* / urine
  • Humans
  • Lead
  • Spain
  • Zinc


  • Cadmium
  • Lead
  • Zinc
  • Arsenic