Multiple metals in children’s deciduous teeth: results from a community-initiated pilot study

Alexa Friedman, Julia Anglen Bauer, Christine Austin, Timothy J. Downs, Yorghos Tripodis, Wendy Heiger-Bernays, Roberta F. White, Manish Arora, Birgit Claus Henn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Characterizing retrospective exposure to toxicants during multiple early-life developmental periods is challenging, yet critical for understanding developmental effects. Objective: To characterize early-life metal exposure using deciduous teeth in a community concerned about past exposures. Methods: Naturally shed teeth were collected from 30 children ages 5–13 years who resided in Holliston, Massachusetts since conception. We estimated weekly prenatal and postnatal (up to 1 year of age) exposure to 12 metals by measuring dentine concentrations using laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry. Multivariable linear mixed models were used to explore sociodemographic, dietary, and behavioral correlates of dentine metal concentrations. Results: Temporal trends in dentine levels differed by metal. Source of milk during the first year of life was associated with dentine barium (Ba) levels, where being fed predominantly breastmilk was associated with 39% (95% CI: –57%, –13%) lower dentine Ba compared to predominantly formula use. Females had higher prenatal and postnatal dentine Mn and Pb, compared to males (e.g., % difference, postnatal Mn: 122% (17%, 321%); postnatal Pb: 60% (95% CI: –8%, 178%)). Significance: Deciduous teeth provide retrospective information on dose and timing of early-life metals exposure at high resolution. We demonstrate their utility in a community-based study with known past contamination of drinking water. Impact statement: We conducted a community-initiated pilot study in a community concerned with historical exposure to multiple metals. Using deciduous teeth, a novel noninvasive biomarker, we characterized early-life exposure to 12 metals in approximately weekly increments during sensitive developmental periods, thus demonstrating the utility of this biomarker in communities concerned with past exposures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)408-417
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2022


  • Biomonitoring
  • Child exposure/health
  • Early-life exposure
  • Metals


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