Occupational Exposure Assessment of Major and Trace Elements in Human Scalp Hair Among a Group of Eritrean Workers

  • Carmela Protano
  • Maria Luisa Astolfi
  • Elisabetta Marconi
  • Arianna Antonucci
  • Silvia Canepari
  • Daniel Piamonti
  • Marco Brunori
  • Matteo VitaliEmail author


The aim of the study was to evaluate occupational exposure to 40 elements among a group of Eritrean adults employed at the Medeber metal market by analysing human scalp hair samples and by investigating the role of some predictors (gender, age, and body mass index—BMI) on their levels. Scalp hair samples were collected from 60 subjects (32 subjects working at the Medeber metal market and 28 subjects not working at Medeber and not employed in other industrial or artisanal activities) and were analysed through inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry to determine the contents of 40 major and trace elements. Information on participants was collected via questionnaire. Significant differences were found in the hair levels of certain elements between subjects working at the Medeber metal market and subjects not exposed. In particular, working at the Medeber metal market increased hair levels of Be, B, Cu, Zn, Mo, Cd, Sb, Tl, Pb, and Fe from 25 to 100%, while reduced Na, K, and Rb levels from 30 to 50%. With multivariate adjustment for age, gender, and BMI, the results confirm that working at Medeber significantly increased the hair levels of Cu, Zn, Sb, Pb, and Fe. This finding reveals the need for more accurate and routine biomonitoring surveys and the necessity of health promotion campaigns both for local decision-makers and workers to increase health promotion and safety in this workplace.


Trace elements Heavy metals Scalp hair Occupational exposure Human biomonitoring Eritrea 


Funding Information

The study was funded by the authors and their institution.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

This study was approved by the Minister of Health of Eritrea through acknowledgement of the ASS.ITER. Onlus, within the “Medeber project” and it was conducted in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carmela Protano
    • 1
  • Maria Luisa Astolfi
    • 2
  • Elisabetta Marconi
    • 1
  • Arianna Antonucci
    • 1
  • Silvia Canepari
    • 2
  • Daniel Piamonti
    • 3
  • Marco Brunori
    • 3
  • Matteo Vitali
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Public Health and Infectious DiseaseSapienza UniversityRomeItaly
  2. 2.Department of ChemistrySapienza UniversityRomeItaly
  3. 3.Department of Cardiovascular, Respiratory, Nephrology, Anaesthesiology and Geriatric ScienceSapienza UniversityRomeItaly

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