Nickel and associated metals in New Caledonia Exposure levels and their determinants

Abstract : The ultramafic massifs of the New Caledonian archipelago contain about 10% of the world's nickel reserves, which also contain significant but lower amounts of cobalt, chromium, and manganese. Natural erosion of these massifs and mining activities may contribute to the exposure of local populations to these metals through contamination of air, food, and water resources. We conducted a biomonitoring survey to evaluate exposure to these four metals and its main determinants by constructing a stratified sample of 732 adults and children (> 3 years old) from visitors to 22 health centers across the archipelago. Urine was collected and analyzed by inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometry to determine metal concentrations. A face-to-face interview was conducted to document sociodemographic characteristics, lifestyle and dietary habits, and residence-mine distance. Environmental samples (soil, house dust, water, and foodstuffs) were collected from two areas (one with and one without mining activity) to delineate determinants of exposure in more detail. Nickel and chromium were metals with the highest concentrations found in urine, especially in children, at levels exceeding reference values derived from representative national surveys elsewhere throughout the world (for children 4.7 mu g/g creatinine for nickel and 0.50 mu g/g creatinine for chromium) 13% of children exceeded the reference value for nickel and 90% for chromium. Large variations were observed by region, age, and sex. In this geological setting, urinary and environmental nickel concentrations appear to be driven mainly by soil content. This is the first archipelago-wide survey of metal exposure in New Caledonia. The potential health consequences of this chronic high exposure need to be assessed.
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Audray St-Jean, Yann Barguil, Yannick Dominique, Barbara Le Bot, Pierre Ayotte, et al.. Nickel and associated metals in New Caledonia Exposure levels and their determinants. Environment International, Elsevier, 2018, 118, pp.106-115. ⟨10.1016/j.envint.2018.05.045⟩. ⟨hal-01863039v2⟩

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