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Special Issue "Medical Geology"

A special issue of International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (ISSN 1660-4601). This special issue belongs to the section "Environmental Health".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 July 2020).

Printed Edition Available!
A printed edition of this Special Issue is available here.

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Marina Cabral Pinto
E-Mail Website1 Website2
Guest Editor
Department of Geosciences, GeoBioTec Research Centre, University of Aveiro, 3810-193 Aveiro, Portugal
Interests: forest; land use planning; agriculture; plant sciences, vegetation; soil; rocks; geomedicine; water quality; mineral exploration; dust; industrial pollution; geochemical mineral; mineralogy; environmental regulation
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear colleagues,

All living organisms are composed of major, minor, and trace elements supplied by local geology. Such elements occur in varying concentrations and forms throughout the atmosphere, lithosphere, and hydrosphere. As a result, plants, animals, and humans are exposed regularly to these elements. With respect to each essential element, all organisms depend on a specific range of tolerance or adequate range of exposure that is safe. Deficient or excess levels of concentration for the essential elements can lead to adverse health effects and, in certain cases, death. Medical geology links the influence of natural geological and environmental benefits and risk factors on the distribution of health problems in humans and animals.

The composition of rocks and minerals is imprinted on the air that we breathe, the water that we drink, and the food that we eat. For many people, this transference of trace elements from minerals is beneficial as they are the primary source of nutrients (such as calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and about a dozen other elements) that are essential for a healthy life. However, sometimes, the local geology can cause significant health problems because there is an insufficient amount of an essential element or an excess of a potentially toxic element (such as arsenic, mercury, lead, fluorine, etc.), or a harmful substance such as methane gas, dust-sized particles of asbestos, quartz or pyrite, or certain naturally occurring organic compounds.

Global environmental threats have historically been largely ignored in terms of health, despite their enormous impact on both people and planet. The cause, involvment and/or spread of infectious, neurodegenera, carcinogenic, and other diseases is influenced by climate change and environmental pollution as well as poor water quality and sanitation, food insecurity, environmental degradation, loss of biodiversity, natural and anthropogenically caused disasters, and poor governance. Thus arises the urgent need to bring a multidisciplinary approach combining diverse areas, such as infectious, carcinogenic, neurosciences, psychology, and environmental sciences and integrating socioeconomic, neuropsychological, and environmental/health data.

This Special Issue of IJERPH discusses recent advances in medical geology, providing examples from research conducted all over the world. Among the topics to be discussed are:

  • Health effects from trace elements, metals, and metalloids;
  • Regional and global impacts of natural dust (including the study of nanoparticles);
  • Chemical and environmental pathology of diseases associated with the natural environment;
  • Novel analytical approaches to the study of natural geochemical and environmental agents;
  • Research on beneficial health aspects of natural geological materials;
  • Risk management, risk communication, and risk mitigation in medical geology;
  • Remote sensing and GIS applications in medical geology;
  • Epidemiology and public health studies in medical geology;
  • Climate change and medical geology;
  • Clinical and toxicological research on biomarkers of exposure;
  • Veterinary medical geology;
  • Biosurveillance and biomonitoring studies in medical geology.

Dr. Marina Marques da Silva Cabral Pinto
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2300 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Research

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Article
Lithium in Portuguese Bottled Natural Mineral Waters—Potential for Health Benefits?
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(22), 8369; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph17228369 - 12 Nov 2020
Viewed by 1048
Abstract
There is increasing epidemiologic and experimental evidence that lithium (Li) exhibits significant health benefits, even at concentrations lower than the therapeutic oral doses prescribed as treatment for mental disorders. The aim of this study is to determine the content of Li in 18 [...] Read more.
There is increasing epidemiologic and experimental evidence that lithium (Li) exhibits significant health benefits, even at concentrations lower than the therapeutic oral doses prescribed as treatment for mental disorders. The aim of this study is to determine the content of Li in 18 brands of bottled natural mineral waters that are available on the Portuguese market and from which the sources are found within the Portuguese territory, to provide data for Li intake from drinking water. Analyses of Li were performed by inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry. The results indicate highly different Li concentrations in natural mineral waters: one group with low Li concentrations (up to 11 µg Li/L) and a second group with Li concentrations higher than 100 µg/L. The highest Li concentrations (>1500 µg Li/L) were observed in the highly mineralized Na-HCO3 type waters that are naturally carbonated (>250 mg/L free CO2). As a highly bioavailable source for Li dietary intake these natural mineral waters have potential for Li health benefits but should be consumed in a controlled manner due to its Na and F contents. The consumption of as little as 0.25 L/day of Vidago natural mineral water (2220 µg Li/L), can contribute up to 50% of the proposed daily requirement of 1 mg Li/day for an adult (70 kg body weight). In future, Li epidemiological studies that concern the potential Li effect or health benefits from Li in drinking water should consider not only the Li intake from tap water but also intake from natural mineral water that is consumed in order to adjust the Li intake of the subjects. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Medical Geology)
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Communication
Preliminary Assessment of Chemical Elements in Sediments and Larvae of Gomphidae (Odonata) from the Blyde River of the Olifants River System, South Africa
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(21), 8135; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph17218135 - 04 Nov 2020
Viewed by 707
Abstract
Benthic macroinvertebrates and sediments can act as good indicators of environmental quality. The aim of this study was to assess the accumulation of chemical elements in the Gomphidae (Odonata) collected in the Blyde River. Seven sites were sampled for river sediments assessment and [...] Read more.
Benthic macroinvertebrates and sediments can act as good indicators of environmental quality. The aim of this study was to assess the accumulation of chemical elements in the Gomphidae (Odonata) collected in the Blyde River. Seven sites were sampled for river sediments assessment and five sites for larvae (naiads) of Gomphidae bioaccumulation analysis. The tissue samples were analysed using inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES). The results showed high levels of all of the tested elements except Cd in the sediment. The mean concentrations of As, Cu and Cr exceeded the standard guideline values, whereas Pb and Zn were below the standard guideline values. In the insect body tissue, the concentrations of most elements were higher than in the sediments. The elements with the highest concentrations were Mn, Zn, Cu, and As. The bioaccumulation factor (BF) showed a tendency for bioaccumulation for almost all of the selected elements in the insect. The BF value was high for Cu, Mn, Sb, and Zn (BF > 1). The high concentrations of elements in the insect body tissue may pose a risk to fish that consume them, and subsequently to humans when fish from the river are consumed. It is therefore important to monitor the river to reduce pollution to prevent health risks in humans, especially in communities that rely on the river for water and food. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Medical Geology)
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Article
Assessment on Distributional Fairness of Physical Rehabilitation Resource Allocation: Geographic Accessibility Analysis Integrating Google Rating Mechanism
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(20), 7576; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph17207576 - 18 Oct 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 642
Abstract
Identifying and treating co-existing diseases are essential in healthcare for the elderly, while physical rehabilitation care teams can provide interdisciplinary geriatric care for the elderly. To evaluate the appropriateness of demand and supply between the population at demand and physical rehabilitation resources, a [...] Read more.
Identifying and treating co-existing diseases are essential in healthcare for the elderly, while physical rehabilitation care teams can provide interdisciplinary geriatric care for the elderly. To evaluate the appropriateness of demand and supply between the population at demand and physical rehabilitation resources, a comparative analysis was carried out in this study. Our study applied seven statistical indices to assess five proposed methods those considered different factors for geographic accessibility analysis. Google ratings were included in the study as a crucial factor of choice probability in the equation for calculating the geographic accessibility scores, because people’s behavioral decisions are increasingly dependent on online rating information. The results showed that methods considering distances, the capacity of hospitals, and Google ratings’ integrally generated scores, are in better accordance with people’s decision-making behavior when they determine which resources of physical rehabilitation to use. It implies that concurrent considerations of non-spatial factors (online ratings and sizes of resource) are important. Our study proposed an integrated assessment method of geographical accessibility scores, which includes the spatial distribution, capacity of resources and online ratings in the mechanism. This research caters to countries that provide citizens with a higher degree of freedom in their medical choices and allows these countries to improve the fairness of resource allocation, raise the geographic accessibilities of physical rehabilitation resources, and promote aging in place. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Medical Geology)
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Article
Associations between Trace Elements and Cognitive Decline: An Exploratory 5-Year Follow-Up Study of an Elderly Cohort
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(17), 6051; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph17176051 - 20 Aug 2020
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 1289
Abstract
Trace elements (TE) homeostasis is crucial in normal brain functioning. Although imbalances have the potential to exacerbate events leading neurodegenerative diseases, few studies have directly addressed the eventual relationships between TE levels in the human body and future cognitive status. The present study [...] Read more.
Trace elements (TE) homeostasis is crucial in normal brain functioning. Although imbalances have the potential to exacerbate events leading neurodegenerative diseases, few studies have directly addressed the eventual relationships between TE levels in the human body and future cognitive status. The present study aimed to assess how different TE body-levels relate to cognitive decline. This exploratory research included a study-group (RES) of 20 elderly individuals living in two Portuguese geographical areas of interest (Estarreja; Mértola), as well as a 20 subjects neuropsychological control-group (CTR). Participants were neuropsychologically assessed through the Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE) and the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) and the RES group was biomonitored for TE through fingernail analysis. After 5 years, the cognitive assessments were repeated. Analyses of the RES neuropsychological data showed an average decrease of 6.5 and 5.27 points in MMSE and MoCA, respectively, but TE contents in fingernails were generally within the referenced values for non-exposed individuals. Higher levels of Nickel and Selenium significantly predicted lesser cognitive decline within 5 years. Such preliminary results evidence an association between higher contents of these TE and higher cognitive scores at follow-up, suggesting their contribution to the maintenance of cognitive abilities. Future expansion of the present study is needed in order to comprehensively assess the potential benefits of these TE. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Medical Geology)
Article
Fine Particulate Matter and Gaseous Compounds in Kitchens and Outdoor Air of Different Dwellings
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(14), 5256; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph17145256 - 21 Jul 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1027
Abstract
Passive diffusion tubes for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and carbonyls and low volume particulate matter (PM2.5) samplers were used simultaneously in kitchens and outdoor air of four dwellings. PM2.5 filters were analysed for their carbonaceous content (organic and elemental carbon, [...] Read more.
Passive diffusion tubes for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and carbonyls and low volume particulate matter (PM2.5) samplers were used simultaneously in kitchens and outdoor air of four dwellings. PM2.5 filters were analysed for their carbonaceous content (organic and elemental carbon, OC and EC) by a thermo-optical technique and for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAHs) and plasticisers by GC-MS. The morphology and chemical composition of selected PM2.5 samples were characterised by SEM-EDS. The mean indoor PM2.5 concentrations ranged from 14 µg m−3 to 30 µg m−3, while the outdoor levels varied from 18 µg m−3 to 30 µg m−3. Total carbon represented up to 40% of the PM2.5 mass. In general, the indoor OC/EC ratios were higher than the outdoor values. Indoor-to-outdoor ratios higher than 1 were observed for VOCs, carbonyls and plasticisers. PAH levels were much higher in the outdoor air. The particulate material was mainly composed of soot aggregates, fly ashes and mineral particles. The hazard quotients associated with VOC inhalation suggested a low probability of non-cancer effects, while the cancer risk was found to be low, but not negligible. Residential exposure to PAHs was dominated by benzo[a]pyrene and has shown to pose an insignificant cancer risk. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Medical Geology)
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Article
Assessment of Clayey Peloid Formulations Prior to Clinical Use in Equine Rehabilitation
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(10), 3365; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph17103365 - 12 May 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 840
Abstract
Clays are natural ingredients used to prepare therapeutic cataplasms suitable for topical application. The knowledge about these formulations and their preparations to be applied on humans and animals has been orally transmitted since ancient times. Several empirical methods using clays have demonstrated fast [...] Read more.
Clays are natural ingredients used to prepare therapeutic cataplasms suitable for topical application. The knowledge about these formulations and their preparations to be applied on humans and animals has been orally transmitted since ancient times. Several empirical methods using clays have demonstrated fast and effective results in the reduction of the inflammatory response and the formation of edemas in horse limbs. The use of traditional and alternative medicine, such as pelotherapy, is now becoming more popular in veterinarian medical practice, alone or combined with other therapies in horse muscle and tendon rehabilitation. This study characterizes the use of commercial equine clays and an old therapeutic clay cataplasm formulation, using acetic acid, to treat tendon injuries in horses. This work might contribute to a major database characterization of clays used empirically on equine health, the potential of dermal absorption, the risks of exposure to some toxic elements, and safety assessment for these formulations. The present study was carried out to characterize the suitability of four commercial equine clays (Group II) and a protocoled healing mixture: “clay acetic acid cataplasm”, (Group III), to treat tendon injuries in horses. In this mixture, three conventional “green” clays (Group I) without any mineralogical specificity were used and blended with acetic acid. The mineralogical composition was determined through X-ray powder diffraction and X-ray fluorescence data. To determine the performance of the samples, cooling kinetics, oil absorption, expandability, and specific surface area were measured. According to the mineralogical composition, Group I was mainly composed of carbonates and silicates, while Group II was much richer in silicates with the main clay minerals kaolinite and illite. Group II exhibited the highest values for As, Pb, Cr, Ni, and Zn, considered potentially toxic. Both groups showed low cation exchange capacities and exchanged mainly Ca2+, with the exception of VET.1 and VET.7, which also highlight Na+, and VET.5 and VET.6, which have K+ as an exchangeable main cation. The addition of acetic acid (Group III) does not reveal any significant chemical changes. The results confirm that both clay groups are adequate for the therapeutic propose. They have good plastic properties (skin adherence), good oil absorptive capabilities (cleaning), and exchange an essential physiological element, calcium. Group II has prior industrial preparation, which is probably why it showed better results. Group I presented lower heat retention capacity and higher abrasiveness, which could be improved using cosmetic additives. The clinical benefit of the “clay acetic acid cataplasm” (Group III) could be the systemic anti-inflammatory effect established by the acetic acid. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Medical Geology)
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Article
Sources of Potentially Toxic Elements in Sediments of the Mussulo Lagoon (Angola) and Implications for Human Health
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(7), 2466; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph17072466 - 04 Apr 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1227
Abstract
The Mussulo lagoon is a coastal environment located near Luanda, one of the SW African cities that has been growing more rapidly during the last decades. Geochemical, mineralogical, and grain-size data obtained for the lagoon sediments are analyzed together, in order to establish [...] Read more.
The Mussulo lagoon is a coastal environment located near Luanda, one of the SW African cities that has been growing more rapidly during the last decades. Geochemical, mineralogical, and grain-size data obtained for the lagoon sediments are analyzed together, in order to establish the factors that control the distribution of some potentially toxic elements (PTEs). Sediments from northern location tend to be enriched in feldspar and, despite some variability in grain-size distributions, in fine-grained detrital minerals; southern lagoon sediments display very homogenous grain-size distribution and are enriched in minerals associated with salt precipitation (halite and gypsum). Multivariate statistics reveal a close link between some PTEs, namely Co, Hg, Ni, and Pb, for which an anthropogenic source can be postulated. On the other end, As seems to be associated with natural authigenic precipitation in southern lagoon sectors. Sediments enriched in clay also tend to yield more Fe, Mn, Zn, and Cu, but it is unclear whether their sources are natural or anthropogenic. Hazard indexes calculated for children are higher than 1 for As and Co, indicating potential non-carcinogenic risk. For the other elements, and for adults, there is no potential carcinogenic or non-carcinogenic risk. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Medical Geology)
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Article
Links between Cognitive Status and Trace Element Levels in Hair for an Environmentally Exposed Population: A Case Study in the Surroundings of the Estarreja Industrial Area
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(22), 4560; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph16224560 - 18 Nov 2019
Cited by 22 | Viewed by 1721
Abstract
In the present study, trace elements (TE) levels were evaluated in scalp hair along the continuum from healthy subjects (HS) to patients suffering from subjective memory concerns (SMC), and/or mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and those with already installed dementia (DEM) in order to: [...] Read more.
In the present study, trace elements (TE) levels were evaluated in scalp hair along the continuum from healthy subjects (HS) to patients suffering from subjective memory concerns (SMC), and/or mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and those with already installed dementia (DEM) in order to: (i) assess the effects of environmental and lifestyle factors on TE concentrations and (ii) evaluate the analyzed elements as possible diagnostic biomarkers for the disease. The study involved 79 mainly permanent residents, >55 years old, from the city of Estarreja (northern Portugal), a former industrial area. The health status of the participants was assessed by means of a complete socio-demographic questionnaire and through cognitive screening tests, namely the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE). The test scores were categorized and used in the statistical analysis. Hair samples were collected and analyzed by inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) ICP-MS for selected TE. Dementia appears to be associated with higher age, the female gender, lower education level, and longer residence time in the study area. In addition, most of the participants diagnosed with dementia frequently consume home-grown foodstuffs, some irrigated with contaminated well water. The calculation of the TE enrichment factors of soil samples collected in kitchen gardens/small farms in the vicinity of the Estarreja Chemical Complex (ECC) reinforces the degree of Hg soil contamination in the area, due to anthropogenic sources that can be a source for the population Hg exposure route among others. Mercury levels in hair differed significantly between the four individual groups (HS, SMC, MCI, and DEM), increasing from healthy to dementia participants. Improved diagnostic results can be obtained using hair TE signatures coupled with MMSE scores. This strategy may prove useful for predictive diagnosis in population screening for cognitive impairment. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Medical Geology)
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Review

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Review
Lead Toxicity: Health Hazards, Influence on Food Chain, and Sustainable Remediation Approaches
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(7), 2179; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph17072179 - 25 Mar 2020
Cited by 81 | Viewed by 4278
Abstract
Lead (Pb) toxicity has been a subject of interest for environmental scientists due to its toxic effect on plants, animals, and humans. An increase in several Pb related industrial activities and use of Pb containing products such as agrochemicals, oil and paint, mining, [...] Read more.
Lead (Pb) toxicity has been a subject of interest for environmental scientists due to its toxic effect on plants, animals, and humans. An increase in several Pb related industrial activities and use of Pb containing products such as agrochemicals, oil and paint, mining, etc. can lead to Pb contamination in the environment and thereby, can enter the food chain. Being one of the most toxic heavy metals, Pb ingestion via the food chain has proven to be a potential health hazard for plants and humans. The current review aims to summarize the research updates on Pb toxicity and its effects on plants, soil, and human health. Relevant literature from the past 20 years encompassing comprehensive details on Pb toxicity has been considered with key issues such as i) Pb bioavailability in soil, ii) Pb biomagnification, and iii) Pb- remediation, which has been addressed in detail through physical, chemical, and biological lenses. In the review, among different Pb-remediation approaches, we have highlighted certain advanced approaches such as microbial assisted phytoremediation which could possibly minimize the Pb load from the resources in a sustainable manner and would be a viable option to ensure a safe food production system. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Medical Geology)
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