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Environ Res. 2011 Feb;111(2):266-73. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2010.11.006. Epub 2010 Dec 18.

Prevalence of nickel sensitization and urinary nickel content of children are increased by nickel in ambient air.

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  • 1Department of Hygiene, Social and Environmental Medicine, Ruhr-University Bochum, Universitaetsstr. 150, 44780 Bochum, Germany.


In a cross-sectional study performed in 2000, an unexpected positive association between nickel (Ni) in ambient air, urinary Ni content and the prevalence of Ni sensitization in a subgroup of 6-yr-old children living near a steel mill was observed. Between 2005 and 2006, in a different and larger study population, we examined if Ni from ambient air or urinary Ni concentration was related to Ni sensitization in children living next to Ni-emitting steel mills. We studied 749 school beginners living in four Ni-polluted industrial areas of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. We assessed Ni in ambient air, Ni in urine from children and mothers, and Ni in tap water, conducted patch tests in children (including the NiSO(4)-dilution test) and collected questionnaire data. Statistics were done by linear and logistic regression analyses, adjusted for covariates. At increased Ni concentration in ambient air (unit of increase: 10 ng/m(3)), urinary Ni concentrations rose in both mothers (9.1%; 95% CI: 6.8-11.4%) and children (2.4%; 95% CI: 0.4-4.4%). The prevalence of Ni sensitization in children was associated with increased Ni from ambient air (unit of increase: 18 ng/m(3); odds ratio 1.28; 95% CI: 1.25-1.32) and urinary Ni concentration (unit of increase: 7.1 μg/L; odds ratio 2.4; 95% CI: 1.20-4.48). Ni in ambient air of areas with Ni-emitting factories contributes to internal Ni exposure in residents via inhalation and, furthermore, is a risk factor for the development of Ni sensitization in children.

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