Chemicals are ubiquitous in our daily lives and exposure to multiple compounds is common. Assessing the risk of chemical exposure in humans requires a comprehensive approach that includes evaluating simultaneous exposure to multiple chemicals. Human biomonitoring is the primary way to obtain data on the exposure to organic chemicals, but it is complex and costly. The need for efficient proxies to predict chemical exposure risk is urgent to cover large populations at a reasonable cost. We performed a population-based birth cohort in Barcelona was analysed using wide-scope target, suspect, and non-target screening approaches to identify over sixty chemicals in maternal blood and placenta samples. The identified chemicals included pesticides, personal care products, and industrial compounds, among others. We also tested the hypothesis that the sewage sludge from wastewater treatment plants correlate with the type and concentration of chemicals found in humans. This suggests the potential use of sewage sludge as a proxy for human exposure and its application in early-warning systems to prevent chemical threats.

Environmental exposures are suspected in the pathogenesis of gliomas, a highly heterogeneous and aggressive brain tumour with poor prognosis and survival. Previous studies on the role of exogenous organic chemicals in glioma development have been limited and inconsistent. In our proof of concept study we analysed 33 glioblastoma samples from the Bellvitge Glioma Cohort in Spain, identifying 46 exogenous chemicals in tumour tissue samples, including industrial chemicals or personal care products. We also found differences in the profiles of endogenous chemicals among the studied glioma subtypes, and identified potential biomarkers that can be determined non-invasively by LC-HRMS-based blood analysis or proton magnetic resonance.

These studies highlight the importance of a comprehensive approach to assessing chemical exposure risk in humans and provide novel evidence on the presence of chemicals in brain tumour tissue. Additionally, they suggest potential proxies for human exposure and new valuable biomarkers for glioma diagnostic and prognostic stratification.

Pablo is a tenured scientist and the leader of the Expo-Hum research group. His research strives for increased knowledge about the chemical exposome and on the development of methods to measure it (exposomics). Pablo has extensive experience on the application of HRMS for a better understanding of the current environmental and health challenges related to chemicals. His main goal is to obtain a more comprehensive understanding of the universe of chemicals that accumulate in humans and link it to human health. Pablo is also an associate editor on the exposome in Environmental Science & Technology.