Monitoring long-term chemical exposome by characterizing the hair metabolome using a high-resolution mass spectrometry-based suspect screening approach

Chih Wei Chang, Jen Yi Hsu, Yu Hsiang Su, Yuan Chih Chen, Ping Zu Hsiao, Pao Chi Liao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Hair has recently emerged as a biospecimen for characterizing the long-term chemical exposome in biomonitoring investigations spanning several months, as chemical compounds circulating in the bloodstream accumulate in hair. Although there has been interest in using human hair as a biospecimen for exposome studies, it has yet to be widely adopted compared to blood and urine. Here, we applied a high-resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS)-based suspect screening strategy to characterize the long-term chemical exposome in human hair. Hair samples were collected from 70 subjects and cut into 3 cm segments, which were then mixed to prepare pooled samples. The pooled hair samples underwent a sample preparation procedure, and the hair extracts were further analyzed using an HRMS-based suspect screening approach. An in-house chemical suspect list containing 1227 chemical entries from National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals (Report) published by the U.S. CDC and the Exposome-Explorer 3.0 database developed by the WHO was subsequently used to screen and filter the suspect features against the HRMS dataset. Overall, we matched 587 suspect features in the HRMS dataset to 246 unique chemical formulas in the suspect list, and the structures of 167 chemicals were further identified through a fragmentation analysis. Among these, chemicals such as mono-2-ethylhexyl phthalate, methyl paraben, and 1-naphthol, which have been detected in the urine or blood for exposure assessment, were also identified in human hair. This suggests that hair reflects the accumulation of environmental compounds to which an individual is exposed. Exposure to exogenous chemicals may exert adverse effects on cognitive function, and we discovered 15 chemicals in human hair that may contribute to the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease. This finding suggests that human hair may be a promising biospecimen for monitoring long-term exposure to multiple environmental chemicals and perturbations in endogenous chemicals in biomonitoring investigations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number138864
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Aug

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • General Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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