Characterization of bone aluminum, a potential biomarker of cumulative exposure, within an occupational population from Zunyi, China

Zainab Hasan, Danelle Rolle-McFarland, Yingzi Liu, Jieqiong Zhou, Farshad Mostafaei, Yan Li, Qiyuan Fan, Yuanzhong Zhou, Wei Zheng, Linda H. Nie, Ellen M. Wells

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Objectives: Aluminum (Al) is a neurotoxicant; however, efforts to understand Al toxicity are limited by the lack of a quantitative biomarker of cumulative exposure. Bone Al measurements may address this need. Here, we describe and compare non-invasive bone Al measurements with fingernail Al and Al cumulative exposure indices (CEIs). Methods: We completed a cross-sectional study of 43 factory workers in Zunyi, China. Bone Al measurements were taken with a compact in-vivo neutron activation analysis system (IVNAA). Fingernail samples were analyzed using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. CEIs, based on self-reported work history and prior literature, were calculated for the prior 5, 10, 15, 20 years and lifetime work history. Linear regressions adjusted for age and education compared fingernail Al and Al CEIs with bone Al. Results: Median (interquartile range (IQR)) Al measurements were: 15 μg/g dry bone (IQR = 28) for bone Al; 34.9 μg/g (43.3) for fingernail; and 24 (20) for lifetime CEI. In adjusted regression models, an increase in 15-year CEI was significantly associated with increased bone Al (β = 0.91, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.16, 1.66). Associations of bone Al with 10- and 20-year CEI were approaching statistical significance (β = 0.98, 95% CI: -0.14, 2.1; β = 0.59, 95% CI: -0.01, 1.18, respectively). Other models were not statistically significant. Conclusions: Bone Al was significantly associated with 15-year Al CEI, but not other Al CEIs or fingernail Al. Bone Al may be a useful measure of cumulative, rather than short-term, Al exposure. Additional refinement of this method is ongoing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number126469
JournalJournal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology
StatePublished - May 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Aluminum
  • Biomarker
  • Bone
  • Cumulative exposure index
  • Nail
  • Neutron activation analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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