Main content area

Exposure to a high selenium environment in Punjab, India: Biomarkers and health conditions

Chawla, Rajinder, Filippini, Tommaso, Loomba, Rinchu, Cilloni, Silvia, Dhillon, Karaj S., Vinceti, Marco
The Science of the total environment 2020 v.719 pp. 134541
abortion (animals), adults, adverse effects, anorexia, biomarkers, blood serum, chest, dermatitis, diet, edema, foods, garlic, grains, hairs, halitosis, health effects assessments, human health, legumes, lifestyle, local food systems, men, nausea, odors, pain, questionnaires, selenium, selenosis, vegetables, villages, vomiting, women, India
Seleniferous areas have been identified and described in many parts of the world. Despite the interest in selenium as a trace element of considerable toxicologic and nutritional relevance, however, only a few studies have been carried out on human health effects of such high selenium environments. We collected blood, hair and nail samples from 680 adult volunteers (267 men and 413 women) living in seven villages located in the seleniferous area of Punjab, India. We measured selenium levels in these specimens. We also administered a questionnaire to collect information about diet and other lifestyle characteristics, to identify the sources of selenium exposure and to correlate it with a number of health conditions. Serum and hair selenium contents were highly correlated, while the association of these biomarkers with nail selenium content was weaker. Serum selenium showed limited association with consumption of locally produced foods, while pulses and vegetables, along with cereals and pulses, were associated to higher hair and nail selenium contents, respectively. Association of a number of adverse health endpoints with serum and hair selenium was stronger than for nail selenium contents. Such endpoints included higher prevalence of nausea and vomiting, bad breath, worm infestation, breathlessness exert and bad breath, chest pain, hair and nail abnormalities and loss, garlic odor, edema, spontaneous abortion, and overall selenosis. In contrast, we gathered no evidence of dermatitis or loss of appetite in residents most exposed to selenium. Overall, and despite some statistical imprecision in effect estimates, these results confirm the occurrence of adverse health effects in subjects exposed to high levels of environmental selenium. Nail selenium contents may be less adequate to reflect and monitor such overexposure, compared with blood and hair levels.