The effects of the exposure to neurotoxic elements on Italian schoolchildren behavior


Neurodevelopmental disorders are constantly increasing on a global scale. Some elements like heavy metals are known to be neurotoxic. In this cross-sectional study we assessed the neurobehavioral effect of the exposure to trace elements including lead, mercury, cadmium, manganese, arsenic and selenium and their interactions among 299 schoolchildren residing in the heavily polluted Taranto area in Italy. Whole blood, urine and hair were collected for metal analyses, while the Child Behavior Checklist and the Social Responsiveness Scale, administered to the main teacher and the mothers were considered to identify behavioral problems in children. Blood lead mainly influenced social problems, aggressive behavior, externalizing and total problems. Urinary arsenic showed an impact on anxiety and depression, somatic problems, attention problems and rule breaking behavior. A significant interaction between lead and arsenic was observed, with a synergistic effect of the two metals increasing the risk of attention problems, aggressive behavior, externalizing problems and total problems. Overall, we were able to test that higher blood lead, urinary arsenic concentrations and their interaction increase the risk of neurobehavioral problems. This is in line with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s priority list of hazardous substances where arsenic and lead are ranked as first and second respectively.

Authors: Stefano Renzetti, Giuseppa Cagna, Stefano Calza, Michele Conversano, Chiara Fedrighi, Giovanni Forte, Augusto Giorgino, Stefano Guazzetti, Costanza Majorani, Manuela Oppini, Marco Peli, Francesco Petrucci, Anna Pino, Donatella Placidi, Oreste Senofonte, Silvia Zoni, Alessandro Alimonti, Roberto G Lucchini
; Full Source: Scientific reports 2021 May 10;11(1):9898. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-88969-z.