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Sci Total Environ. 2011 Feb 15;409(6):1172-80. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2010.11.033. Epub 2011 Jan 6.

Biomonitorization of cadmium, chromium, manganese, nickel and lead in whole blood, urine, axillary hair and saliva in an occupationally exposed population.

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Department of Legal Medicine and Toxicology, University of Granada, School of Medicine, Spain.


Heavy metal contamination from occupational origin is a cause for concern because of its potential accumulation in the environment and in living organisms leading to long term toxic effects. This study was aimed to assess Cd, Cr, Mn, Ni and Pb levels in whole blood, urine, axillary hair and saliva from 178 individuals with occupational exposure to heavy metals. Levels of metal compounds were determined by atomic absorption spectrometry. We collected information on occupation, lifestyle habits and food intake by questionnaire. Multiple linear regression analyses for metal ion concentration in whole blood, urine, axillary hair and saliva were adjusted for age, gender, smoking and alcohol consumption, lifetime workplace exposure, residence area and food habits. Overall, blood and urine median concentrations found for the five metals analyzed do not exceed biological exposure indexes, so that they are very similar to a non-occupationally exposed population. Toxicokinetic differences may account for the lack of correlations found for metal levels in hair and saliva with those in blood or urine. For those heavy metals showing higher median levels in blood with respect to hair (Cd, Mn and Pb) indicating lesser hair incorporation from blood, the lifetime working experience was inversely correlated with their hair levels. The longer the lifetime working experience in industrial environments, the higher the Mn and Ni concentration in saliva. Axillary hair and saliva may be used as additional and/or alternative samples to blood or urine for biomonitoring hair Mn, and saliva Ni in subjects with occupational exposure.

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