Scientists from Leicester and Nottingham have devised a method for identifying levels of exposure to environmental arsenic by testing toenail clippings.
Arsenic occurs naturally in the environment and people can be exposed to it in several ways, for example through contaminated water, food, dust or soil. The risk of exposure is greater in certain areas of the UK where the natural geology and historic mining activities have led to widespread contamination of the environment with arsenic. Long term exposure to arsenic is associated with increases in lung, liver, bladder and kidney cancers and skin growths.
Previous studies using hair have suggested high levels of arsenic in the bodies of King George III and Napoleon Bonaparte. Now doctoral research at the British Geological Survey by Mark Button of the University of Leicester has used toenail clippings to find fresh evidence of exposure to environmental arsenic within a UK population living close to a former arsenic mine. The research, published online ahead of print in the Journal of Environmental Monitoring, was carried out with Dr Gawen Jenkin, Department of Geology, University of Leicester; Dr Chris Harrington, School of Science and Technology at Nottingham Trent University and Dr Michael Watts of the British Geological Survey. The research was funded by the British Geological Survey.
Mark Button said "We initially identified high levels of arsenic in earthworms living in contaminated soils surrounding the former mine. That got us thinking about potential exposure in people living close to the site."
The researchers collected toenails and washed and acid digested the samples under microwave irradiation. They then analysed the samples using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry.
Mark Button added: "This preliminary research indicates that people living close to a former arsenic mine have elevated levels of arsenic in their toenails. However, the
|Contact: Dr. Gawen Jenkin|
University of Leicester