Body burdens of heavy metals associated with epigenetic damage in children living in the vicinity of a municipal waste incinerator.


Zhejiang Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 3399 Bin Sheng Road, Binjiang District, Hangzhou, 310051, China. Electronic address: [Email]


To evaluate the body burdens of heavy metals correlated with health impact on school-age children living around a waste incinerator. A total of 81 children from the exposure area and 95 from the control area were recruited in our study. We measured the blood levels of chromium (Cr), cadmium (Cd) and lead (Pb) by an inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer (ICP-MS), conducted comet assays, calculated the percentage of 5-methylcytosine (5 mC) and 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC) by MethylFlash methylated and a hydroxymethylated DNA quantification kit, and performed the flow cytometry to detect the expressions of surface antigens (including CD3+, CD19+, CD3+CD4+, CD3+CD8+, and CD3-CD16+ and/or CD56+) in peripheral lymphocytes. Besides, we measured hormonal levels, including triiodothyronine (T3), thyroxine (T4), free triiodothyronine (FT3), free thyroxine (FT4), and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), and analyzed several regular hematological parameters. In addition, concentrations of heavy metals in environmental samples including rice, soils, vegetables, and drinking water were detected by ICP-MS. The mean blood levels of Cr, Cd, and Pb in the exposure group were all statistically higher than in the control group (2.57 vs. 0.79 μg/L; 1.83 vs. 1.81 μg/L; 44.00 vs. 32.31 μg/L, p < 0.01). The 5 mC and 5hmC levels in the exposure group were statistically lower (1.15% vs. 4.14%; 0.22% vs. 0.30%, p < 0.01), whereas the mean level of % tail DNA was statistically higher (10.10% vs. 8.62%, p < 0.01). Furthermore, the mean blood level of Cr and Pb was negatively correlated with the level of 5 mC (r = -0.279, r = -0.190, P < 0.05) in total population. In conclusion, children living in the vicinity of the municipal waste incinerator suffered increased body burdens of heavy metals (Cr, Cd, and Pb) associated with genotoxicity and epigenetic modifications.