Associations of an industry-relevant metal mixture with verbal learning and memory in Italian adolescents: The modifying role of iron status

Samantha Schildroth, Alexa Friedman, Roberta F. White, Katarzyna Kordas, Donatella Placidi, Julia A. Bauer, Thomas F. Webster, Brent A. Coull, Giuseppa Cagna, Robert O. Wright, Donald Smith, Roberto G. Lucchini, Megan Horton, Birgit Claus Henn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Biomarker concentrations of metals are associated with neurodevelopment, and these associations may be modified by nutritional status (e.g., iron deficiency). No prior study on associations of metal mixtures with neurodevelopment has assessed effect modification by iron status. Objectives: We aimed to quantify associations of an industry-relevant metal mixture with verbal learning and memory among adolescents, and to investigate the modifying role of iron status on those associations. Methods: We used cross-sectional data from 383 Italian adolescents (10–14 years) living in proximity to ferroalloy industry. Verbal learning and memory was assessed using the California Verbal Learning Test for Children (CVLT-C), and metals were quantified in hair (manganese, copper, chromium) or blood (lead) using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Serum ferritin, a proxy for iron status, was measured using immunoassays. Covariate-adjusted associations of the metal mixture with CVLT subtests were estimated using Bayesian Kernel Machine Regression, and modification of the mixture associations by ferritin was examined. Results: Compared to the 50th percentile of the metal mixture, the 90th percentile was associated with a 0.12 standard deviation [SD] (95% CI = −0.27, 0.50), 0.16 SD (95% CI = −0.11, 0.44), and 0.11 SD (95% CI = −0.20, 0.43) increase in the number of words recalled for trial 5, long delay free, and long delay cued recall, respectively. For an increase from its 25th to 75th percentiles, copper was beneficially associated the recall trials when other metals were fixed at their 50th percentiles (for example, trial 5 recall: β = 0.31, 95% CI = 0.14, 0.48). The association between copper and trial 5 recall was stronger at the 75th percentile of ferritin, compared to the 25th or 50th percentiles. Conclusions: In this metal mixture, copper was beneficially associated with neurodevelopment, which was more apparent at higher ferritin concentrations. These findings suggest that metal associations with neurodevelopment may depend on iron status, which has important public health implications.

Original languageEnglish
Article number115457
JournalEnvironmental Research
Volume224
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 May 2023

Keywords

  • Copper
  • Ferritin
  • Iron status
  • Lead
  • Learning
  • Manganese
  • Memory
  • Metals
  • Mixtures
  • Neurodevelopment

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