Urinary lead in relation to combustion-derived air pollution in urban environments. A longitudinal study of an international panel

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Background: Urinary lead (Pb) is generally considered to have limited use in biomonitoring environmental exposure to lead. Carbon load in airway macrophages (AM BC) is an internal marker to assess long-term exposure to combustion-derived aerosol particles. In urban environments, atmospheric Pb and black carbon may have common sources. We aimed to study the temporal change of urinary Pb (U-Pb) when exposure to outdoor air pollution changes, and the relationship between U-Pb and AM BC. Methods: A panel of 50 young healthy adults [mean (SD) 26.7 (5.2) years], including 17 long-term (>1 year) residents in Leuven, Belgium (BE), 15 and 18 newcomers (arrived <3 weeks) from low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) and high-income countries (HIC), respectively, underwent 8 repeated measurements at 6 weeks intervals. In urine spot samples obtained at 5 time points (T1, T2, T4, T6, T8), 24 trace elements were quantified by inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry. At each time point, AM BC was quantified as the median surface of black inclusions (in μm 2 ) by means of image analysis of 25 macrophages obtained by induced sputum. Changes in urinary metal concentrations (with and without creatinine correction) and the relationship between U-Pb and AM BC were estimated using linear mixed models adjusted for covariates and potential confounders. Results: Only U-Pb differed between groups and exhibited significant time trends. Participants from the LMIC group had significantly higher initial U-Pb (1.18 μg/g creat) than the HIC group (0.44 μg/g creat) and BE group (0.45 μg/g creat). In the LMIC group, U-Pb decreased significantly with time by 0.061 μg/g creatinine per 30 days [95% confidence interval (CI): 0.034, 0.088]. U-Pb remained unchanged in the other two groups. An increase in AM BC of 1 μm 2 was associated with an increase in U-Pb of 0.369 μg/g creat (95% CI: 0.145, 0.593). Conclusion: This panel study demonstrates that U-Pb may be a valid alternative to blood Pb for biomonitoring changes in exposure to lead, at least at group level. In addition, we identified a positive association between U-Pb and AM BC, a biomarker of exposure to traffic-related air pollution, suggesting the existence of common sources of Pb and black carbon in urban environments.




Bai, Y., Laenen, A., Haufroid, V., Nawrot, T. S., & Nemery, B. (2019). Urinary lead in relation to combustion-derived air pollution in urban environments. A longitudinal study of an international panel. Environment International, 75–81. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2019.01.044

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