Metal exposures are a concern for communities near mining sites around the world, yet there is not much information available to assess how infants are exposed in their homes over their first year of life.
Young children are a particular concern because early exposures to metals commonly found at mining sites are associated with neurodevelopmental deficits. Children’s exposures may be higher compared with adults because young children play close to the ground and frequently put objects in their mouths, and may have closer contact with contaminated soil or house dust.
Dr. John D. Spengler, Professor at the Harvard Chan School, and his colleagues measured lead, manganese, arsenic, and cadmium in indoor air, house dust, yard soil, and tap water from 53 infants’ homes near the Tar Creek Superfund Site in Oklahoma, USA. Their objective was to evaluate the association between the level of metals in infants’ homes and bodies, as measured by blood and hair samples.
They published their findings in “Associations between metals in residential environmental media and exposure biomarkers over time in infants living near a mining-impacted site,” published in the Journal of Exposure Science and Enviornmental Epidemiology.
The study found that although concentrations in household dust and children’s blood were generally lower than health-protective standards, the study shows that children can be exposed to multiple mine waste metals through household dust. Findings suggest that risk assessments and exposure mitigation strategies at hazardous waste sites should make house dust a priority, particularly for young children.
“Associations between metals in residential environmental media and exposure biomarkers over time in infants living near a mining-impacted site.” Ami R. Zota1, Anne M. Riederer, Adrienne S. Ettinger, Laurel A. Schaider, James P. Shine, Chitra J. Amarasiriwardena, Robert O. Wright, and John D. Spengler. Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology. 2016 Sep;26(5):510-9. doi: 10.1038/jes.2015.76.