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Soil–skin adherence measures from hand press trials in a Gulf study of exposures

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Marine oil spills and the resulting environmental contamination is common along coastal areas; however, information is lacking about the safety of impacted beaches for public use, especially for the most vulnerable population: children. One route of exposure for children at oil impacted beaches is through contact with sands. The purpose of this study was to evaluate beach sand skin adherence for children under the age of seven. Each of 122 children participated in a hand press trial conducted at one of four different U.S. beaches (two in Miami, FL, and two in Galveston, TX USA). During the hand press trials, hand conditions of the children were randomized (dry, wet, or with sunscreen), and soil adherence (mass of sand per palmar surface area of the hand) and the maximum pressure applied (force applied per area of hand) was measured and calculated. Each child was instructed to press their hands on a soil laden tray for 5 s and pressure of contact was measured using a scale. Results (n = 98) showed that the average soil adherence for both palmar hands across the four beaches ranged from 0.200 to 234 mg/cm2 with an average of 35.7 mg/cm2, with boys (40.4 mg/cm2) showing slightly higher means than girls (31.7 mg/cm2), but these differences were not significant even after adjusting for age. Among the three conditions evaluated, the highest loading was measured for children with wet hands (mean 65.3 mg/cm2), followed by dry hands (mean 24.5 mg/cm2). Sunscreen hands (mean 23.2 mg/cm2) had the lowest loadings. The pressure of contact ranged from 0.180 to 1.69 psi and varied by age groups and by height and weight, where pressure of contact did not have a significant influence on soil adherence. The average adhered sand grain size and average ambient sand grain size both had a statistically significant impact on hand soil adherence. Overall results from this study can be utilized in exposure and risk assessment models to evaluate the possible health impacts from contaminants found in beach sands.

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Fig. 1: Box and whisker plot for soil adherence (mg/cm2) and pressure of contact (psi) for male and female children.
Fig. 2: Box and whisker plot for soil adherence (mg/cm2) and pressure of contact (psi) grouped by age (months).
Fig. 3: Soil adherence (mg/cm2) by beach location and condition of testing (D, S, W).
Fig. 4: Soil adherence versus grain size adhered to hands and ambient grain size.

Change history

  • 02 December 2020

    The original HTML version of this Article was updated to correct an error in the acknowledgements section. The error concerned access to the dataset. The dataset should be ‘R6.x828.000:0005’ - there was previously a “.” Missing after the R6.


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This research was made possible by a grant from The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) (#G231817). Data are publicly available through the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative Information & Data Cooperative (GRIIDC) at (dataset: R6.x828.000:0005). This work was part of the GoMRI project called “BEACHES” which focused on evaluating children exposures to oil spill contaminants. BEACHES also involved surveys, videotaping, oil fate and transport estimates, and risk assessment. Thanks to all of the students, community members, and researchers from the Miami and Galveston areas, and universities. Students who participated were funded through multiple university initiatives and programs. We also appreciate the access to the Microtrac Particle Size Analyzer which was made possible by the Collaborative Laboratory of the University of Miami College of Engineering and Johnson and Johnson 3D Printing Center of Excellence.

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Correspondence to Alesia Ferguson.

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Ferguson, A., Rattler, K., Perone, H. et al. Soil–skin adherence measures from hand press trials in a Gulf study of exposures. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 31, 158–169 (2021).

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