Levels of metalloids (As - urine) and heavy metals (Hg - urine, Cd - whole blood and Zn - serum) were determined by atomic absorption spectrometry in 601 subjects living in the area affected by the Aznalcóllar mine spill (SW, Spain) and compared with those of a representative sample (960 subjects) selected from the Andalusian community (non-affected area), southern Spain. The characteristic parameters of the analytical method including uncertainty were determined for each metal. Potential associations of metal concentration with age, sex and body mass index as well as life-style habits (smoking, alcohol consumption and food habits) were explored. Concentrations of all the metals studied were statistically higher in the population of the affected area with respect to that of the non-affected area in Andalusia, although levels were always lower or similar to the values reported for the general population and below occupational reference limits. In conclusion, there is a lack of evidence that the spill had any incidence on human health in the population living in the affected area. There are few references in scientific literature reporting values from large series of samples, and hence our data could be useful for further studies. © 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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