Environmental monitoring and assessment

Biomonitoring of cadmium, chromium, nickel and arsenic in general population living near mining and active industrial areas in Southern Tunisia.

PMID 24078049


The human health impact of the historic and current mining and industrial activities in Tunisia is not known. This study assessed the exposure to metals in the population of Southern Tunisia, using biomonitoring. The aim of this pilot study was to evaluate metal exposure on 350 participants living near mining and active industrial areas in the South of Tunisia. Blood specimens were analyzed for metals (Cd, Cr, As, and Ni) by Atomic Absorption Spectrometer equipped with Zeeman background correction and AS-800 auto sampler by graphite furnace and graphite tubes with integrated L'vov platform. The sample population was classified according to different age groups, sex, smoking habit, sea food and water drinking consumption, occupational exposure, amalgam fillings and place of residence. The blood As, Cd, Cr and Ni values expressed as mean ± SD were 1.56 ± 2.49, 0.74 ± 1.15, 35.04 ± 26.02 and 30.56 ± 29.96 μg/l, respectively. Blood Cd and Ni levels in smokers were 2 and 1.2 times, respectively, higher than in non-smokers. Blood Cd levels increase significantly with age (p = 0.002). As, Cd and Ni were significantly correlated with gender and age (p < 0.05). Cd level in blood samples of subjects occupationally exposed was 1.3 times higher than that of non-exposed. Blood metals were not significantly affected by amalgam fillings, place of living and sea food and drinking water consumption. This first biomonitoring study of metal exposure in the South of Tunisia reveals a substantial exposure to several metals. The pathways of exposure and health significance of these findings need to be further investigated.