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Open AccessArticle

Links between Cognitive Status and Trace Element Levels in Hair for an Environmentally Exposed Population: A Case Study in the Surroundings of the Estarreja Industrial Area

1
Geobiotec Research Centre, Department of Geosciences, University of Aveiro, 3810-193 Aveiro, Portugal
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Instituto de Ciências da Terra, University of Minho, 4710–057 Braga, Portugal
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Laboratory of Applied Chemistry, Department of Chemical Sciences, Faculty of Pharmacy, LAQV/REQUIMTE, Porto University, 4050-313 Porto, Portugal
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CERENA, DECivil, Instituto Superior Técnico, University of Lisbon, 1049-001 Lisbon, Portugal
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Center for Research in Neuropsychology and Cognitive and Behavioral Intervention (CINEICC), University of Coimbra, 3030-548 Coimbra, Portugal
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MARE—Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Coimbra, 3030-790 Coimbra, Portugal
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CNC—Center for Neuroscience and Cell Biology, University of Coimbra and Institute of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Coimbra, 3030-548 Coimbra, Portugal
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(22), 4560; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16224560
Received: 26 October 2019 / Revised: 13 November 2019 / Accepted: 15 November 2019 / Published: 18 November 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Medical Geology)
In the present study, trace elements (TE) levels were evaluated in scalp hair along the continuum from healthy subjects (HS) to patients suffering from subjective memory concerns (SMC), and/or mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and those with already installed dementia (DEM) in order to: (i) assess the effects of environmental and lifestyle factors on TE concentrations and (ii) evaluate the analyzed elements as possible diagnostic biomarkers for the disease. The study involved 79 mainly permanent residents, >55 years old, from the city of Estarreja (northern Portugal), a former industrial area. The health status of the participants was assessed by means of a complete socio-demographic questionnaire and through cognitive screening tests, namely the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE). The test scores were categorized and used in the statistical analysis. Hair samples were collected and analyzed by inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) ICP-MS for selected TE. Dementia appears to be associated with higher age, the female gender, lower education level, and longer residence time in the study area. In addition, most of the participants diagnosed with dementia frequently consume home-grown foodstuffs, some irrigated with contaminated well water. The calculation of the TE enrichment factors of soil samples collected in kitchen gardens/small farms in the vicinity of the Estarreja Chemical Complex (ECC) reinforces the degree of Hg soil contamination in the area, due to anthropogenic sources that can be a source for the population Hg exposure route among others. Mercury levels in hair differed significantly between the four individual groups (HS, SMC, MCI, and DEM), increasing from healthy to dementia participants. Improved diagnostic results can be obtained using hair TE signatures coupled with MMSE scores. This strategy may prove useful for predictive diagnosis in population screening for cognitive impairment. View Full-Text
Keywords: exposure; trace elements; cognitive impairment; mercury exposure; trace elements; cognitive impairment; mercury
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Cabral Pinto, M.M.S.; Marinho-Reis, P.; Almeida, A.; Pinto, E.; Neves, O.; Inácio, M.; Gerardo, B.; Freitas, S.; Simões, M.R.; Dinis, P.A.; Diniz, L.; Ferreira da Silva, E.; Moreira, P.I. Links between Cognitive Status and Trace Element Levels in Hair for an Environmentally Exposed Population: A Case Study in the Surroundings of the Estarreja Industrial Area. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16, 4560.

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