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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle

Human Scalp Hair as an Indicator of Exposure to the Environmental Toxin β-N-Methylamino-l-alanine

Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, Nelson Mandela University, P.O. Box 77 000, Port Elizabeth 6031, South Africa
Unit for Analytical Chemistry, Department of Environmental Science and Analytical Chemistry, Stockholm University, SE 106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Toxins 2018, 10(1), 14;
Received: 29 November 2017 / Revised: 18 December 2017 / Accepted: 25 December 2017 / Published: 27 December 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Cyanobacterial Neurotoxin BMAA)
Dietary or aerosol exposure to the environmental neurotoxin β-N-methylamino-l-alanine (BMAA) is a putative risk factor for the development of sporadic neurodegenerative disease. There are many potential sources of BMAA in the environment, but BMAA presence and quantities are highly variable. It has been suggested that BMAA in human hair may serve as an indicator of exposure. We sought to evaluate the use of the BMAA content of human scalp hair as an indicator of exposure, as well as the correlation between specific lifestyle or dietary habits, reported as hypothesised exposure risk factors, and BMAA in hair. Scalp hair samples and questionnaires were collected from participants in a small residential village surrounding a freshwater impoundment renowned for toxic cyanobacterial blooms. Data suggested a positive correlation between hair BMAA content and consumption of shellfish, and possibly pork. No statistically significant correlations were observed between hair BMAA content and residential proximity to the water or any other variable. Hair BMAA content was highly variable, and in terms of exposure, probably reflects primarily dietary exposure. However, the BMAA content of human hair may be affected to a great extent by several other factors, and as such, should be used with caution when evaluating human BMAA exposure, or correlating exposure to neurodegenerative disease incidence. View Full-Text
Keywords: β-N-methylamino-l-alanine; BMAA; exposure; aerosol; diet; hair; bioaccumulation; cyanobacteria β-N-methylamino-l-alanine; BMAA; exposure; aerosol; diet; hair; bioaccumulation; cyanobacteria
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Downing, S.; Scott, L.L.; Zguna, N.; Downing, T.G. Human Scalp Hair as an Indicator of Exposure to the Environmental Toxin β-N-Methylamino-l-alanine. Toxins 2018, 10, 14.

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