Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Urinary and hair concentrations of trace metals in pregnant women from Northeastern British Columbia, Canada: a pilot study

Abstract

Background

Northeastern British Columbia (Canada) is an area of intense natural gas exploitation by hydraulic fracturing. Hydraulic fracturing can release contaminants, including trace metals, many of which are known developmental toxicants. To date, there is limited data on human exposure to contaminants in this region.

Objective

We aimed to examine trace metals in urine and hair samples from 29 Indigenous and non-Indigenous pregnant women from two communities (Chetwynd and Dawson Creek) in Northeastern British Columbia.

Methods

We recruited 29 pregnant women who provided spot urine samples over five consecutive days and one hair sample. We measured 19 trace metals in pooled urine samples from each participant and in the first 2 cm of hair closest to the scalp. We compared urinary and hair concentrations to those measured in women from the general population using data from the Canadian Health Measure Survey (CHMS), or reference values found in the literature for trace metals not measured in the CHMS.

Results

Median urinary (0.49 μg/L) and hair (0.16 μg/g) concentrations of manganese were higher in our participants than in the CHMS (<0.05 µg/L in urine) or reference population (0.067 μg/g in hair). In hair, median values for barium (4.48 μg/g), aluminum (4.37 μg/g) and strontium (4.47 μg/g) were respectively 16, 3, and 6 times higher compared with median values in a reference population. Concentrations of barium and strontium in hair were higher in self-identified Indigenous participants (5.9 and 5.46 μg/g, respectively) compared to non-Indigenous participants (3.88 and 2.60 μg/g) (p-values = 0.02 and 0.03).

Conclusion

Our results suggest higher gestational exposure to certain trace metals in our study population compared to reference populations.

This is a preview of subscription content

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

References

  1. 1.

    Adams C, Janicki E, Balogun A. (2016): Summary of shale gas activity in Northeast British Columbia 2013; in Oil and Gas Reports 2016, British Columbia Ministry of Natural Gas Development, pages 1–39.

  2. 2.

    Werner AK, Vink S, Watt K, Jagals P. Environmental health impacts of unconventional natural gas development: a review of the current strength of evidence. Sci Total Environ. 2015;505:1127–41.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Crowe E, Patton S, Thomas D, Thorpe B. When the wind blows: tracking toxic chemicals in gas fields and impacted communities. (Maddy Cobbing ed.) Battleboro, VT; 2016.

  4. 4.

    Gilman JB, Lerner B, Kuster W, De Gouw J. Source signature of volatile organic compounds from oil and natural gas operations in northeastern Colorado. Environ Sci Technol. 2013;47:1297–305.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Macey GP, Breech R, Chernaik M, Cox C, Larson D, Thomas D, et al. Air concentrations of volatile compounds near oil and gas production: a community-based exploratory study. Environ Health. 2014;13:82.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Vengosh A, Jackson RB, Warner N, Darrah TH, Kondash A. A critical review of the risks to water resources from unconventional shale gas development and hydraulic fracturing in the United States. Environ Sci Technol. 2014;48:8334–48.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Fontenot BE, Hunt LR, Hildenbrand ZL, Carlton Jr DD, Oka H, Walton JL, et al. An evaluation of water quality in private drinking water wells near natural gas extraction sites in the Barnett Shale Formation. Environ Sci Technol. 2013;47:10032–40.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Johnson EG, Johnson LA. Hydraulic fracture water usage in northeast British Columbia: locations, volumes and trends. Geosci Rep. Victoria, BC, Canada, 2012. pp 41–63.

  9. 9.

    Pichtel J. Oil and gas production wastewater: soil contamination and pollution prevention. Appl Environ Soil Sci. 2016;2016.

  10. 10.

    Egbobawaye EI. Whole-rock geochemistry and mineralogy of Triassic Montney Formation, Northeastern British Columbia, Western Canada Sedimentary Basin. Int J Geosci. 2016;7:91.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Playter T, Corlett H, Konhauser K, Robbins L, Rohais S, Crombez V, et al. Clinoform identification and correlation in fine‐grained sediments: a case study using the Triassic Montney Formation. Sedimentology. 2017;65:263–302.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Lester Y, Ferrer I, Thurman EM, Sitterley KA, Korak JA, Aiken G, et al. Characterization of hydraulic fracturing flowback water in Colorado: Implications for water treatment. Sci Total Environ. 2015;512-513:637–44.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    GWSolutions. Peace river regional district water quality database and analysis. Coming Clean, Nanaimo, BC; 2016.

  14. 14.

    Caserta D, Mantovani A, Ciardo F, Fazi A, Baldi M, Sessa M, et al. Heavy metals in human amniotic fluid: a pilot study. Prenatal Diagn. 2011;31:792–6.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Hall G, Carr M, Cummings E, Lee M. Aluminum, barium, silicon, and strontium in amniotic fluid by emission spectrometry. Clin Chem. 1983;29:1318.

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Kosanovic M, Jokanovic M, Jevremovic M, Dobric S, Bokonjic D. Maternal and fetal cadmium and selenium status in normotensive and hypertensive pregnancy. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2002;89:97–103.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Caserta D, Graziano A, Monte GL, Bordi G, Moscarini M. Heavy metals and placental fetal-maternal barrier: a mini-review on the major concerns. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2013;17:2198–206.

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Lin C-C, Chen Y-C, Su F-C, Lin C-M, Liao H-F, Hwang Y-H, et al. In utero exposure to environmental lead and manganese and neurodevelopment at 2 years of age. Environ Res. 2013;123:52–7.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Takser L, Mergler D, Hellier G, Sahuquillo J, Huel G. Manganese, monoamine metabolite levels at birth, and child psychomotor development. Neurotoxicology. 2003;24:667–74.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Casey JA, Savitz DA, Rasmussen SG, Ogburn EL, Pollak J, Mercer DG, et al. Unconventional natural gas development and birth outcomes in Pennsylvania, USA. Epidemiology. 2016;27:163–72.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Currie J, Greenstone M, Meckel K. Hydraulic fracturing and infant health: New evidence from Pennsylvania. Sci Adv. 2017;3:e1603021.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Hill EL. Unconventional natural gas development and infant health: evidence from Pennsylvania. Charles H Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management. Working Paper. 2012. p. 2013.

  23. 23.

    McKenzie LM, Guo R, Witter RZ, Savitz DA, Newman LS, Adgate JL. Birth outcomes and maternal residential proximity to natural gas development in rural Colorado. Environ Health Perspect. 2014;122:412.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Whitworth KW, Marshall AK, Symanski E. Maternal residential proximity to unconventional gas development and perinatal outcomes among a diverse urban population in Texas. PLOS ONE. 2017;12:e0180966.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Caron-Beaudoin É, Valter N, Chevrier J, Ayotte P, Frohlich K, Verner M-A. Gestational exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in Northeastern British Columbia, Canada: A pilot study. Environ Int. 2018;110:131–8.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Health Canada. Second report on human biomonitoring of environmental chemicals in Canada: results of the Canadian Health Measures Survey Cycle 2 (2009–2011). Ottawa, Canada, 2012.

  27. 27.

    Goullé J-P, Mahieu L, Castermant J, Neveu N, Bonneau L, Lainé G, et al. Metal and metalloid multi-elementary ICP-MS validation in whole blood, plasma, urine and hair: reference values. Forensic Sci Int. 2005;153:39–44.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    Goullé J-P, Mahieu L, Neveu N, Bouige D, Castermant J, Laine G, et al., (editors) Dosage multiélémentaire des métaux et métalloïdes dans les milieux biologiques par ICP-MS: valeurs usuelles chez 100 témoins. Annales de Toxicologie Analytique; 2004: EDP Sciences.

  29. 29.

    Wilhelm M, Hafner D, Lombeck I, Ohnosorge FK. Monitoring of cadmium, copper, lead and zinc status in young children using toenails: comparison with scalp hair. Sci Total Environ. 1991;103:199–207.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Rodushkin I, Axelsson MD. Application of double focusing sector field ICP-MS for multielemental characterization of human hair and nails. Part II. A study of the inhabitants of northern Sweden. Sci Total Environ. 2000;262:21–36.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  31. 31.

    Rodushkin I, Axelsson MD. Application of double focusing sector field ICP-MS for multielemental characterization of human hair and nails. Part I. Analytical methodology. Sci Total Environ. 2000;250:83–100.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Wang T, Fu J, Wang Y, Liao C, Tao Y, Jiang G. Use of scalp hair as indicator of human exposure to heavy metals in an electronic waste recycling area. Environ Pollut. 2009;157:2445–51.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  33. 33.

    Pereira R, Ribeiro R, Gonçalves F. Scalp hair analysis as a tool in assessing human exposure to heavy metals (S. Domingos mine, Portugal). Sci Total Environ. 2004;327:81–92.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  34. 34.

    Gil F, Hernández AF, Márquez C, Femia P, Olmedo P, López-Guarnido O, et al. Biomonitorization of cadmium, chromium, manganese, nickel and lead in whole blood, urine, axillary hair and saliva in an occupationally exposed population. Sci Total Environ. 2011;409:1172–80.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  35. 35.

    Schroll E. Gallium: element and geochemistry. Geochemistry. Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands; 1998. p. 257–9.

  36. 36.

    Pragst F, Stieglitz K, Runge H, Runow K-D, Quig D, Osborne R, et al. High concentrations of lead and barium in hair of the rural population caused by water pollution in the Thar Jath oilfields in South Sudan. Forensic Sci Int. 2017;274:99–106.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  37. 37.

    Moon J, Smith TJ, Tamaro S, Enarson D, Fadl S, Davison AJ, et al. Trace metals in scalp hair of children and adults in three Alberta indian villages. Sci Total Environ. 1986;54:107–25.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  38. 38.

    Bouchard MF, Sauvé S, Barbeau B, Legrand M, Brodeur M-È, Bouffard T, et al. Intellectual impairment in school-age children exposed to manganese from drinking water. Environ Health Perspect. 2011;119:138.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  39. 39.

    Hoover E, Cook K, Plain R, Sanchez K, Waghiyi V, Miller P, et al. Indigenous peoples of North America: environmental exposures and reproductive justice. Environ Health Perspect. 2012;120:1645.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. 40.

    Brenniman GR, Kojola WH, Levy PS, Carnow BW, Namekata T. High barium levels in public drinking water and its association with elevated blood pressure. Archiv Environ Health. 1981;36:28–32.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  41. 41.

    Gollub MJ, Bains MS. Barium sulfate: a new (old) contrast agent for diagnosis of postoperative esophageal leaks. Radiology. 1997;202:360–2.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  42. 42.

    Kravchenko J, Darrah TH, Miller RK, Lyerly HK, Vengosh A. A review of the health impacts of barium from natural and anthropogenic exposure. Environ Geochem Health. 2014;36:797–814.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  43. 43.

    Riihimäki V, Aitio A. Occupational exposure to aluminum and its biomonitoring in perspective. Crit Rev Toxicol. 2012;42:827–53.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. 44.

    McLachlan D, Bergeron C, Smith J, Boomer D, Rifat S. Risk for neuropathologically confirmed Alzheimer’s disease and residual aluminum in municipal drinking water employing weighted residential histories. Neurology. 1996;46:401–5.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  45. 45.

    Yokel RA, Hicks CL, Florence RL. Aluminum bioavailability from basic sodium aluminum phosphate, an approved food additive emulsifying agent, incorporated in cheese. Food Chem Toxicol. 2008;46:2261–6.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  46. 46.

    Fimreite N, Hansen O, Pettersen H. Aluminum concentrations in selected foods prepared in aluminum cookware, and its implications for human health. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol. 1997;58:1–7.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  47. 47.

    Runia LT. Strontium and calcium distribution in plants: effect on palaeodietary studies. J Archaeol Sci. 1987;14:599–608.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. 48.

    Curzon M. The relation between caries prevalence and strontium concentrations in drinking water, plaque, and surface enamel. J Dent Res. 1985;64:1386–8.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  49. 49.

    Bouchard M, Laforest F, Vandelac L, Bellinger D, Mergler D. Hair manganese and hyperactive behaviors: pilot study of school-age children exposed through tap water. Environ Health Perspect. 2006;115:122–7.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. 50.

    Takser L, Lafond J, Bouchard M, St-Amour G, Mergler D. Manganese levels during pregnancy and at birth: relation to environmental factors and smoking in a Southwest Quebec population. Environ Res. 2004;95:119–25.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  51. 51.

    Colborn T, Schultz K, Herrick L, Kwiatkowski C. An Exploratory Study of Air Quality Near Natural Gas Operations. Human Ecol Risk Assess. 2014;20:86–105.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  52. 52.

    Rahm D. Regulating hydraulic fracturing in shale gas plays: the case of Texas. Energy Policy. 2011;39:2974–81.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. 53.

    Vinciguerra T, Yao S, Dadzie J, Chittams A, Deskins T, Ehrman S, et al. Regional air quality impacts of hydraulic fracturing and shale natural gas activity: Evidence from ambient VOC observations. Atmos Environ. 2015;110:144–50.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  54. 54.

    Alawattegama SK, Kondratyuk T, Krynock R, Bricker M, Rutter JK, Bain DJ, et al. Well water contamination in a rural community in southwestern Pennsylvania near unconventional shale gas extraction. J Environ Sci Health Part A. 2015;50:516–28.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  55. 55.

    Ingraffea AR, Wells MT, Santoro RL, Shonkoff SB. Assessment and risk analysis of casing and cement impairment in oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania, 2000–2012. Proc Natl Acad Sci. 2014;111:10955–60.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  56. 56.

    Harrison SS. Evaluating system for ground‐water contamination hazards due to gas‐well drilling on the glaciated Appalachian plateau. Groundwater. 1983;21:689–700.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  57. 57.

    Darrah TH, Vengosh A, Jackson RB, Warner NR, Poreda RJ. Noble gases identify the mechanisms of fugitive gas contamination in drinking-water wells overlying the Marcellus and Barnett Shales. Proc Natl Acad Sci. 2014;111:14076–81.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  58. 58.

    Jackson RB, Vengosh A, Darrah TH, Warner NR, Down A, Poreda RJ, et al. Increased stray gas abundance in a subset of drinking water wells near Marcellus shale gas extraction. Proc Natl Acad Sci. 2013;110:11250–5.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

This research project was funded through a new initiative grant program from the Université de Montréal Public Health Research Institute (IRSPUM) and the West Moberly First Nations. Élyse Caron-Beaudoin was supported through a postdoctoral fellow scholarship from the Fonds de Recherche Santé—Québec (FRQS), and is now supported by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research postdoctoral fellowship (FRN 159262). Marc-André Verner is the recipient of a Research Scholar J1 Award from the Fonds de recherche du Québec—Santé (FRQS). This research was conducted in Treaty 8, the traditional territory of the Cree, Saulteau and Dunne-Za people. We want to thank the participants, as well as the Treaty 8 Tribal Association, the Saulteau First Nations and the West Moberly First Nations for their support and welcoming. The research team would also like to thank the participants and the staff from medical clinics for their assistance during the recruitment.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Élyse Caron-Beaudoin.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Additional information

Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Caron-Beaudoin, É., Bouchard, M., Wendling, G. et al. Urinary and hair concentrations of trace metals in pregnant women from Northeastern British Columbia, Canada: a pilot study. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 29, 613–623 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41370-019-0144-3

Download citation

Keywords

  • Trace metals
  • Biomonitoring
  • Hydraulic fracturing
  • Gestational exposure

Further reading

Search

Quick links