Biomarkers of exposure and effect in a working population exposed to lead, manganese and arsenic

Daniela C. Serrazina, Vanda Lopes De Andrade, Madalena Cota, Maria Luísa Mateus, Michael Aschner, Ana Paula Marreilha dos Santos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Lead (Pb), manganese (Mn) and arsenic (As) are among the major toxicants in mining environments. Miners are commonly and repeatedly exposed to this toxic mixture. Some adverse effects may appear at concentrations below environmental quality guidelines for individual mixture components. Further, Pb, Mn, and As induce common adverse outcomes, such as interferences in the cholinergic system and heme synthesis. It is thus vital to monitor miners through biomarkers (BM), such that subclinical effects may be identified at an early stage. The main objectives of this study were to evaluate the exposure of a mining population to these three metals and determine alterations in cholinergic and heme synthesis parameters. Blood and urine samples of workers (n = 60) were obtained from a Portuguese mining industry and compared with a control population (n = 80). The levels of the metals were determined in biological samples, as well as urinary heme precursor levels, delta aminolevulinic acid (ALA) and porphyrins, and blood acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity. The miners exhibited significantly higher values of Pb and As in blood and urine compared to control. In the case of Mn near or slightly higher than limit values were found. Our data show that heme precursors may be used simultaneously with metal levels as BMs for multiple metal exposures on an individual basis, resulting in 94.3% and 95.7% accuracy, respectively, in blood and urine, for subjects correctly identified with respect to occupation. This study also revealed that biological monitoring of this working population regarding metal body burden and heme precursor accumulation is advisable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)983-997
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Toxicology and Environmental Health - Part A: Current Issues
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 2 2018


  • Lead
  • combined biomarkers
  • manganese and arsenic co-exposure
  • occupational exposure
  • urine heme precursors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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