Evaluation of human toenail as a non-invasive biomonitoring matrix for assessing human exposure to environmental organic pollutants by optimized sample prep and GCHRMS analysis
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Human biomonitoring is an analytical challenge to find environmental organic chemicals of varying polarity, persistency, and potential toxicity in a suitable, ideally non-invasive matrix at ppb levels that are significantly above method blanks. Compared with more traditional matrices of adipose tissue, serum, and urine, toenail clippings samples are non-invasive, compact, can be shipped without refrigeration, stored indefinitely at room temperature, and processed without concerns for biohazards. With both hydrophilic and hydrophobic layers, toenails contain 1-2% lipid, which is several times higher than serum. Toenails grow slowly and are trimmed every 2-3 months, which offers the potential to integrate both chronic and pulsed episodic exposures. Using toenail samples (65 to 340 mg) donated from four individuals and an indoor house cat, the hypothesis that toenails are a suitable biomonitoring matrix was tested by analyzing for persistent pesticides, over 50 PCB congeners, moderately persistent PBDEs, and transient compounds of triclosan and bisphenol A by using GC/High Resolution MS (GC/HRMS) analysis and for unsuspected compounds using GC/full scan MS. Although not fully digested and dissolved, toenails averaged 1.22% lipid (sd 0.20%, n=10). Lipid was separated and determined using a new small single-use 2-g S-X3 gel permeation chromatography flash column with high purity nitrogen. Multiple toenail samples from one individual were collected for over a year for replicate analysis, p,p'-DDE averaged 0.82 ng/g-nail, sd 0.28, n=5 and 65.2 ng/g-lipid, sd 15.3, n=5 on lipid-adjusted basis. Trans-nonachlor averaged 3.08 ng/g-nail, sd 1.03, n=5; mean 254 ng/g- lipid, sd 97, n=5. PBDE 28 averaged 0.29 ng/g-nail, sd 0.10, n=5; mean 24.8 ng/g-lipid, sd 13.3, n=5. PBDE 85 averaged 0.25 ng/g-nail, sd 0.06, n=5; mean 20.8 ng/g-lipid, sd 6.2, n=5. PBDE 153 averaged 1.82 ng/g-nail, sd 0.51, n=6; mean 150 ng/g-lipid, sd 49.3, n=6. Most effectively biomonitored in toenails were normally transient triclosan (mean 58.3 ng/g-nail,
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