The first Italian human biomonitoring survey (PROBE – PROgramme for Biomonitoring general population Exposure) considered a reference population of adolescents, aged 13–15 years, living in urban and rural areas and investigated their exposure to metals. The study was expanded up to 453 adolescents living in the same areas of Latium Region (Italy) and blood samples were analyzed for 19 metals (As, Be, Cd, Co, Cr, Hg, Ir, Mn, Mo, Ni, Pb, Pd, Pt, Rh, Sb, Sn, Tl, V, and W) by sector field inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. The exposure assessment was contextualized following an exposome approach that considered several determinants related to the subjects, available environmental parameters and geo-coding of residence address.
To assess the influence of exposure determinants and modifiers on children biomarkers levels we used two independent methodologies. The first makes use of the so-called Environment-Wide Association Study (EWAS) methodology while the second was based on the application of a Generalized Liner Model (GLM) capturing co-exposures to pairs of key determinants. Based on our analysis, Hg and As were positively associated with dietary pathways (primarily linked to fish and to a lesser extent to milk consumption) while Cr showed a more complex interaction between co-exposure to different dietary pathways (milk and fish) coupled to proximity of residence to industrial activities. In addition to diet, socio-economic status of the mother revealed robust statistical associations with Cd, Ni and W biomonitoring levels in the respective children.