What do the trace metal contents of urine and toenail samples from Qatar[U+05F3]s farm workers bioindicate?

Nora Kuiper, Candace Rowell, Jerome Nriagu, Basem Shomar

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Qatar's farm workers provide a unique population for exposure study: they are young, healthy males. This study combined trace element profiles in urine and toenail with survey information from 239 farm workers to assess the extent to which the biomarkers provide complementary exposure information. Urinary Mo levels (average=114. μg/L) were elevated; average urinary values (μg/L) for all other elements were: V (1.02), Cr (0.55), Mn (2.15), Fe (34.1), Co (0.47), Ni (2.95), Cu (15.0), As (47.8), Se (25.7), Cd (1.09), Ba (22.5), Pb (2.50) and U (0.15). Average toenail concentrations (mg/kg) were: Mn (2.48), Cu (4.43), As (0.26), Se (0.58), Mo (0.07), Cd (0.03), Ba (1.00), Pb (0.51) and U (0.02). No significant association was found between corresponding elements in urine and toenails. Elemental profiles suggest groundwater (with the exception of Mo) and soil-dust-crop exposure pathways cannot account for elemental variations. The main factors moderating trace element contents are related to depuration processes involving participants[U+05F3] trace element body burden prior to work in Qatar, and interactions of trace element metabolic cycles which over-ride the exposure footprint. Toenail and urine need to be carefully validated before reliable use as biomarkers of exposure in general populations for most elements in the study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)86-94
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2014



  • Biomonitoring
  • Farm workers
  • Toenails
  • Trace elements
  • Urine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Biochemistry

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