Tracking natural and anthropogenic Pb exposure to its geological source

Evans, Jane; Pashley, Vanessa; Madgwick, Richard; Neil, Samantha; Chenery, Carolyn. 2018 Tracking natural and anthropogenic Pb exposure to its geological source. Scientific Reports, 8 (1), 1969.

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Human Pb exposure comes from two sources: (i) natural uptake through ingestion of soils and typified by populations that predate mining activity and (ii) anthropogenic exposure caused by the exposure to Pb derived from ore deposits. Currently, the measured concentration of Pb within a sample is used to discriminate between these two exposure routes, with the upper limit for natural exposure in skeletal studies given as 0.5 or 0.7 mg/kg in enamel and 0.5/0.7 μg/dL in blood. This threshold approach to categorising Pb exposure does not distinguish between the geological origins of the exposure types. However, Pb isotopes potentially provide a more definitive means of discriminating between sources. Whereas Pb from soil displays a crustal average 238U/204Pb (μ) value of c 9.7, Pb from ore displays a much wider range of evolution pathways. These characteristics are transferred into tooth enamel, making it possible to characterize human Pb exposure in terms of the primary source of ingested Pb and to relate mining activity to geotectonic domains. We surmise that this ability to discriminate between silicate and sulphide Pb exposure will lead to a better understanding of the evolution of early human mining activity and development of exposure models through the Anthropocene.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 2045-2322
Date made live: 09 Feb 2018 16:35 +0 (UTC)

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