Hair analysis as a possible way to investigate heavy metal pollution

FSCW General Meeting Special Lecture: “Hair analysis as a possible way to investigate heavy metal pollution – interim report” by Dr. Hiroshi Yasuda, Director of La Belle Vie Preventive Medicine Laboratory

Summary of Lecture by Hiroshi Yasuda
April 26, 2008
Tokyo, Japan

We have conducted investigations to determine the degree of heavy metal pollution in hair from parents and children in Japan. This kind of study is rarely done, so we think the data is very valuable. Among the heavy metals that are needed by the body, intake of minerals through food is necessary to a certain degree. However, there are substances that do more harm, such as mercury, lead and cadmium. In Japan, these are known for the specific diseases they caused in the past, such as Minamata disease (mercury), lead poisoning, and the Itai-itai disease (cadmium). Also, arsenic in milk and water wells have caused health problems. Aluminum is known to cause dialysis encephalopathy syndrome, while copper has caused the Wilson disease. Even though they are all necessary substances, they can cause severe symptoms and disease if the intake is high.

In this study, we looked at the concentrations of harmful heavy metals in hair samples from 34 women (control group), 78 mothers, 49 children (female) and 31 children (boys). We investigated the levels, and generally we found that they were higher in the children than in their mothers.

We found that for both mercury and arsenic there was a positive correlation between levels found in mother and child. For cadmium, lead, and aluminum, there were significantly higher values in the children than in the mothers. Some among the children had 10 times higher levels compared to their mothers.

More details: Food Safety Citizen’s Watch Issue # 16