A meta-analysis highlighting the increasing relevance of the hair matrix in exposure assessment to organic pollutants

Muhammad Junaid, Marriya Sultan, Shulin Liu, Naima Hamid, Qiang Yue, De Sheng Pei*, Jun Wang*, Brice M.R. Appenzeller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Owing to a wide range of advantages, such as stability, non-invasiveness, and ease of sampling, hair has been used progressively for comprehensive biomonitoring of organic pollutants for the last three decades. This has led to the development of new analytical and multi-class analysis methods for the assessment of a broad range of organic pollutants in various population groups, ranging from small-scale studies to advanced studies with a large number of participants based on different exposure settings. This meta-analysis summarizes the existing literature on the assessment of organic pollutants in hair in terms of residue levels, the correlation of hair residue levels with those of other biological matrices and socio-demographic factors, the reliability of hair versus other biomatrices for exposure assessment, the use of segmental hair analysis for chronic exposure evaluation and the effect of external contamination on hair residue levels. Significantly high concentrations of organic pollutants such as pesticides, flame retardants, polychlorinated biphenyls and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon were reported in human hair samples from different regions and under different exposure settings. Similarly, high concentrations of pesticides (from agricultural activities), flame retardants (E-waste dismantling activities), dioxins and furans were observed in various occupational settings. Moreover, significant correlations (p < 0.05) for hair and blood concentrations were observed in majority of studies featuring pesticides and flame retardants. While among sociodemographic factors, gender and age significantly affected the hair concentrations in females and children in general exposure settings, whereas adult workers in occupational settings. Furthermore, the assessment of the hair burden of persistent organic pollutants in domestic and wild animals showed high concentrations for pesticides such as HCHs and DDTs whereas the laboratory-based studies using animals demonstrated strong correlations between exposure dose, exposure duration, and measured organic pollutant levels, mainly for chlorpyrifos, diazinon, terbuthylazine, aldrin, dieldrin and pyrethroid metabolites. Considering the critical analysis of the results obtained from literature review, hair is regarded as a reliable matrix for organic pollutant assessment; however, some limitations, as discussed in this review, need to be overcome to reinforce the status of hair as a suitable matrix for exposure assessment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number170535
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date1 Feb 2024
Publication statusPublished - 20 Mar 2024


  • Biomonitoring
  • Hair analysis
  • Occupational exposure
  • POPs
  • Sociodemographic factors


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