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Title: Integrated measures of lead and manganese exposure improve estimation of their joint effects on cognition in Italian school-age children.

Authors: Levin-Schwartz, Yuri; Claus Henn, Birgit; Gennings, Chris; Coull, Brent A; Placidi, Donatella; Horton, Megan K; Smith, Donald R; Lucchini, Roberto G; Wright, Robert O

Published In Environ Int, (2021 01)

Abstract: Every day humans are exposed to mixtures of chemicals, such as lead (Pb) and manganese (Mn). An underappreciated aspect of studying the health effects of mixtures is the role that the exposure biomarker media (blood, hair, etc.) may play in estimating the effects of the mixture. Different biomarker media represent different aspects of each chemical's toxicokinetics, thus no single medium can fully capture the toxicokinetic profile for all the chemicals in a mixture. A potential solution to this problem is to combine exposure data across different media to derive integrated estimates of each chemical's internal concentration. This concept, formalized as a multi-media biomarker (MMB) has proven effective for estimating the health impacts of Pb exposure, but may also be useful to estimate mixture effects, such as the joint effects of metals like Pb and Mn, while factoring in how the association changes based upon the biomarker media. Levels of Pb and Mn were quantified in five media: blood, hair, nails, urine, and saliva in the Public Health Impact of Metals Exposure (PHIME) project, a study of Italian adolescents aged 10-14 years. MMBs were derived for both metals using weighted quantile sum (WQS) regression across the five media. Age-adjusted Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) IQ scores, measured at the same time as the exposure measures, were the primary outcome and models were adjusted for sex and socioeconomic status. The levels Pb and Mn were relatively low, with median blood Pb of 1.27 (IQR: 0.84) μg/dL and median blood Mn of 1.09 (IQR: 0.45) μg/dL. Quartile increases in a Pb-Mn combination predicted decreased Full Scale IQ of 1.9 points (95% CI: 0.3, 3.5) when Pb and Mn exposure levels were estimated using MMBs, while individual regressions for each metal were not associated with Full Scale IQ. Additionally, a quartile increase in the WQS index of Pb and Mn, measured using MMBs, were associated with reductions in Verbal IQ by 2.8 points (1.0, 4.5). Weights that determine the contributions of the metals to the joint effect highlighted that the contribution of the Pb-Mn was 72-28% for Full Scale IQ and 42-58% for Verbal IQ. We found that the joint effects of Pb and Mn are strongly affected by the medium used to measure exposure and that the joint effects of the Pb and Mn MMBs on cognition were the stronger than any individual biomarker. Thus, increase power and accuracy for measuring mixture effects compared to individual biomarkers. As the number of chemicals in mixtures increases, appropriate biomarker selection will become increasingly important and MMBs are a natural way to reduce bias in such analyses.

PubMed ID: 33395951 Exiting the NIEHS site

MeSH Terms: Adolescent; Child; Cognition; Environmental Exposure/analysis; Humans; Italy; Lead*/toxicity; Manganese*/toxicity; Schools

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