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Comparison of concentrations of toxic elements in the hair of first-year students of RUDN University from different regions of the world: a cross-sectional study

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Due to the development of the metallurgical and energy industries and the operation of incinerators, more and more environmental pollution is occurring. Toxic elements accumulate in the biosphere and affect the state of the population of the regions of large-scale production or the disposal of industrial waste. The main goal of this study was to compare the toxic elements hair composition in people from different regions of the world. The concentrations of toxic and potentially toxic elements (Al, As, Be, Cd, Hg, Pb, Sn) in 198 people, first-year students of People’s Friendship University of Russia, who arrived from different regions of the world, were measured with inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Students were divided into 6 groups: from South and East Asia, from Latin America, from Arab countries, Central Asia and Afghanistan, from South and Central Africa, from Iran and Azerbaijan, and from Russia, Ukraine, and Moldova. Medians of the concentrations of elements in the hair in the general group were 5.8 μg/g for Al, 30 ng/g for As, 0.6 ng/g for Be, 9.0 ng/g for Cd, 0.11 μg/g for Hg, 0.24 μg/g for Pb, and 0.11 μg/g for Sn. All these values fall within the normal range. Students from Russia, Moldova, and Ukraine showed a significantly higher Sn content (0.28 μg/g) in their hair than subjects from other regions except for Latin America, p<0,05. Except for As, cases of exceeding their recommended concentrations in the hair were identified. However, the proportion of subjects with deviations in each group was not high — not more than 7%. In all regions, a positive correlation was found between Cd, Pb, and Sn, p<0.05, r>0.5 for all. Cases of exceeding the maximum permissible concentrations of various toxic elements in the hair were detected in people from all regions of the Earth included in the study. And although the overall picture of the content of toxic elements in the hair of students from all regions in our study does not look critical, the results of previous studies, as well as information about the total deterioration of the environmental situation throughout the Earth, necessitate further large-scale environmental studies.

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Data availability

The datasets generated and analyzed during the current study are not publicly available as the subjects participated in the study on condition that their confidential information was not disclosed.


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The research was supported by the Centre for Biotic Medicine, Moscow, Russia.

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Authors and Affiliations



AVG and AAS made conceptualization and collected data. JNL carried out laboratory tests. EIS performed the statistical analyses. EIS and AASh reviewed the literature. EIS, AASh, and JNL drafted the original paper. AVG reviewed and edited the text, and supervised the study. All authors approved the final version of the article.

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Correspondence to Alexey Vladimirovich Galchenko.

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This study was carried out in accordance with the Helsinki Declaration of the World Medical Association (1964) and its subsequent amendments. All subjects have given voluntary informed consent. Approval was obtained from the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia Committee of Ethics (protocol No. 1 from 20.09.2018).

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Not applicable.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Responsible Editor: Lotfi Aleya

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Galchenko, A.V., Sidorova, E.I., Sherstneva, A.A. et al. Comparison of concentrations of toxic elements in the hair of first-year students of RUDN University from different regions of the world: a cross-sectional study. Environ Sci Pollut Res 29, 8341–8352 (2022).

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