SEGH Articles

World Iodine Association first international conference, Pisa 2017

04 January 2018
In November 2017 a group of students from BGS and the University of Nottingham researching iodine geochemistry and its affect on human health attended the first international conference of the World Iodine Association - Iodine in Food Systems and Health - in Pisa, Italy. Olivier Humphrey, undertaking his PhD with the Center for Environmental Geochemistry, reports on his time at the event.

 

Posing in front of the leaning tower of Pisa- I couldn’t resist!

Delegates from BGS and the University of Nottingham at the World Iodine Association conference


Iodine is an essential micronutrient involved in the production of the thyroid hormones, essential for all mammalian life. Approximately one-third of the world’s population are at risk of iodine deficiency disorders (IDDs). The most common outcome of iodine deficiency is goitre, a swelling of the thyroid gland, however, the most severe effects occur during fetal development; leading to stillbirth, cretinism and mental impairment. The most widely-used method for reducing IDD is implementing iodised salt programmes; however, poor treatment, food processing, losses through volatisation and implementation reduces its effectiveness.

The conference welcome reception was held at the Domus Comeliana, a charming house situated next to the world famous leaning tower. It was here we were given introductory presentations regarding the history of iodine and human health by Dr Elizabeth Pearce. The great work conducted by various organisations towards eliminating global IDD was highlighted by Prof Michael B Zimmermann. After these opening talks, we had our iodine enriched gala dinner consisting of fish, cheeses and, of course, pasta.

The remainder of the conference was held at the Palazzo dei Congressi where talks were divided into multiple sessions addressing various iodine research related themes. The presentations given covered a wide range of topics including technical hurdles, salt iodisation, international stakeholder organisations’ opinions, before looking at iodine in soil, water and atmosphere. The next step, after looking at iodine in the environment, is to assess iodine in food and health. Dr Sarah Bath, a lecturer in public health nutrition at the University of Surrey, discussed nutritional recommendations for iodine and whether they can be met via dietary sources. Alongside these presentations, there were talks monitoring the iodine status of populations, industrial applications and iodine deficiency and excess in humans and animals.

Posing in front of the leaning tower of Pisa- I couldn’t resist!

The final session focused on agronomic biofortification of agricultural produce with iodine and I presented my current work investigating iodine uptake, translocation and storage mechanisms in spinach. Not only was this the World Iodine Association’s first international conference, it was the first conference I had given a presentation at! Despite the wide use of iodised salt, approximately 2 billion people are at risk of IDD, therefore we need to improve and add to current preventative treatments. The fortification of food with iodine is another strategy that can be used to reduce the risk of IDD, however, there is a lack of understanding of how iodine behaves in plants. In general, iodine has positive effects on plants when applied at a low concentration in soils, nutrient solution or foliar sprays. Despite the apparent positive effects on plant growth, the uptake pathways of iodine remain unknown and translocation pathways once absorbed by plants are still disputed. In my research, I have conducted a number of experiments to grasp a fundamental understanding of iodine-plant dynamics and have used isotopically labelled iodine tracers to trace the movement through spinach roots to show that uptake follows both active and passive pathways. This work, and recently published papers, indicates that agronomic biofortification could have a much larger role in tackling IDDs.

Whilst in Pisa, we also visited some key tourist spots, including: the square of miracles where we saw the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta - Duomo, the Baptistery, the Camposanto and the Tower, ate pizza and gelato (when in Rome…). We also managed to spend an afternoon in Lucca, a small city famous for its intact Renaissance-era city walls that surround the city. We wandered around and through the city before climbing the Guinigi Tower.

 

   Posing in front of the leaning tower of Pisa
   -I couldn’t resist!

 

My overall impression was that the conference was a great success, the quality of all talks were fantastic and the inclusion of researchers from various backgrounds all investigating iodine was brilliant.

The PhD is supervised under the umbrella of the Centre for Environmental Geochemistry: Dr Scott Young, Dr Liz Bailey and Professor Neil Crout (University of Nottingham) and Dr Louise Ander and Dr Michael Watts (BGS)

Keep up to date

SEGH Events

Submit Content

Members can keep in touch with their colleagues through short news and events articles of interest to the SEGH community.

Science in the News

Latest on-line papers from the SEGH journal: Environmental Geochemistry and Health

  • Distribution pattern and health risk assessment of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the water and sediment of Algoa Bay, South Africa 2018-11-11

    Abstract

    Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are amongst the pollutants of major concern in the terrestrial and aquatic habitats. They are mostly characterised by carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic effects. Distribution and potential health risks of sixteen priority PAHs in the water and sediment samples collected between December 2015 and June 2016 from Algoa Bay, South Africa, were evaluated. Water and sediment samples collected were extracted with liquid–liquid and soxhlet extraction methods, respectively, and then cleaned up using glass column loaded with silica gel. Final concentrations of the target PAHs were determined by gas chromatography interfaced with flame ionization detector. Results indicated that individual PAH concentrations in surface water, bottom water and sediment samples ranged from not detected (ND) to 24.66 µg/L, ND to 22.81 µg/L and ND to 5.23 mg/kg correspondingly. Total PAHs concentrations varied as 12.78–78.94 µg/L, 1.20–90.51 µg/L and 1.17–10.47 mg/kg in the three environmental matrices in that order. The non-carcinogenic risk was generally below 1, whereas risk indices (dermal contact) were above the acceptable limit of 1 × 10−4 in the water column, suggesting possible carcinogenic effects to humans, with adults being the most vulnerable. Similarly, highest contributions to TEQs and MEQs in the sediments were made by benzo(a)pyrene and dibenzo(a,h)anthracene, the two most toxic congeners, signifying the possibility of carcinogenicity and mutagenicity in humans. Diagnostic ratios of PAHs reflect a prevailing pyrogenic input all through. The pollution was albeit moderate, yet regular check is recommended to ensure safe and healthy environment for human and aquatic lives.

  • Potential exposure to metals and health risks of metal intake from Tieguanyin tea production in Anxi, China 2018-11-10

    Abstract

    The metal content of Tieguanyin tea from Anxi, Southeast China, was studied. Leaching experiments were designed based on the local tea-drinking habits, and tea infusions were prepared using three types of water and two methods of soaking tea. Twelve metals (Cd, As, Cr, Pb, Se, Sb, Ag, Tl, Cu, Zn, Be, and Ba) were measured by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), and a human health risk assessment was performed. The results showed that the quality of water used for steeping tea has a direct effect on the leaching concentrations of metals in the tea infusion and this effect can be reduced by using pure water or commercially available drinking water. Further, the two tea-soaking methods used by local residents can reduce the metal intake. The health risk assessment determined that the carcinogenic risk values of Cr, As, and Pb (Cr > Pb > As) were within an acceptable range (10−7–10−4); therefore, the concentrations of these metals in tea infusions do not pose substantial carcinogenic risk to tea drinkers. The results also indicate that the high concentrations of Tl in the tea infusions pose a substantial noncarcinogenic risk and may result from the dissolution characteristics of Tl and the water quality.

  • Health risk assessment and source apportionment of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons associated with PM 10 and road deposited dust in Ahvaz metropolis of Iran 2018-11-09

    Abstract

    The objective of this study was to compare the characteristics of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in PM10 and road dust samples, as well as to identify and quantify the contributions of each source profile using the positive matrix factorization (PMF) receptor model. Health risk assessment was carried out using toxic equivalency factors and incremental lifetime cancer risk (ILCR), which quantitatively estimate the exposure risk for age-specific groups. PM10 samples were collected on PTFE filters in the metropolitan area of Ahvaz. Road dust samples were also collected from all over the urban areas with different land uses. Total PAH concentrations in PM10 and road dust samples were 0.5–25.5 ng/m3 and 49.3–16,645 µg/kg, respectively. Pyrene was the highest PAH in the PM10 profile, whereas fluoranthene became the highest PAH in the road dust. Abundance of benzo[ghi]perylene at PM10 and road dust samples suggested a source indicator for traffic emissions. The results demonstrate that in 36.5% of samples, PM10 concentrations exceed the maximum concentration level recommended by EPA. A multiple linear regression model was used to estimate the influence of meteorological parameters (temperature, wind speed, and relative humidity) on buildup of PAHs. All of PAH species show higher concentrations during the cold and typical days rather than the dust event days and warm periods. PMF analysis showed that vehicular emissions (50.6%) and industrial activities (especially steel industries) (30.4%) were first two sources of PAHs bounded with PM10, followed by diesel emissions (11.6%) and air–soil exchange (7.4%). For road dust samples, three common sources were also identified: vehicular traffic (48%), industrial activities (42.3%), and petrogenic sources (9.7%), in line with that of diagnostic molecular ratios results. According to the results of health risk assessment model, the ILCR of exposure to PAHs associated with PM10 and road-deposited dust was higher than the guidelines of USEPA, indicating high carcinogenic risk.