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Geographical pattern of minerals and its association with health disparities in the USA

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This study aimed to determine the common latent patterns of geographical distribution of health-related minerals across the USA and to evaluate the real-world cumulative effects of these patterns on overall population health. It was an ecological study using county-level data (3080 contiguous counties) on the concentrations of 14 minerals (i.e., aluminum, arsenic, calcium, copper, iron, lead, magnesium, manganese, mercury, phosphorus, selenium, sodium, titanium, zinc) in stream sediments (or surface soils), and the measurements of overall health including life expectancy at birth, age-specific mortality risks and cause-specific (summarized by 21 mutually exclusive groups) mortality rates. Latent class analysis (LCA) was employed to identify the common clusters of life expectancy-related minerals based on their concentration characteristics. Multivariate linear regression analyses were then conducted to examine the relationship between the LCA-derived clusters and the health measurements, with adjustment for potential confounding factors. Five minerals (i.e., arsenic, calcium, selenium, sodium and zinc) were associated with life expectancy and were analyzed in LCA. Three clusters were determined across the USA, the ‘common’ (n = 2056, 66.8%), ‘infertile’ (n = 739, 24.0%) and ‘plentiful’ (n = 285, 9.3%) clusters. Residents in counties with the ‘infertile’ profile were associated with the shortest life expectancy, highest mortality risks at all ages, and highest mortality rates for many reasons including the top five leading causes of death: cardiovascular diseases, neoplasms, neurological disorders, chronic respiratory conditions, and diabetes, urogenital, blood and endocrine diseases. Results remained statistically significant after confounding adjustment. Our study brings novel perspectives regarding environmental geochemistry to explain health disparities in the USA.

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The authors thank the other colleagues at the Wisdom Lake Academy of Pharmacy, Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University for their academic and administrative support. YC would like to express his special appreciation for the arrival of his baby daughter, with whom the process of manuscript writing has become a particularly memorable and enjoyable moment.


This study was supported by the Postgraduate Research Studentship (PGRS, no. 2012021) Award at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University.

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YC, LY, RG and ZFM conceived the study. BQ, SW, YC and PZ analyzed the data. YC drafted the initial manuscript. All authors contributed to the study design and interpretation of the data, and all authors approved the final version of the manuscript submitted for publication. BQ and SW equally contributed to this paper.

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Correspondence to Ying Chen.

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The authors declare that they have no known competing financial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported in this paper.

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Qu, B., Wu, S., Zhao, P. et al. Geographical pattern of minerals and its association with health disparities in the USA. Environ Geochem Health 45, 4407–4424 (2023).

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