Metals in bones of the middle-aged inhabitants of Sardinia island (Italy) to assess nutrition and environmental exposure

Beatrice Bocca, Giovanni Forte, Valentina Giuffra, Rita Maria Serra, Yolande Asara, Cristiano Farace, Marco Milanese, Eugenia Tognotti, Andrea Montella, Pasquale Bandiera, Roberto Madeddu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Metals in bones of 72 subjects lived between the twelfth and eighteenth century AC and collected in four Sardinian (Italian insular region) burial sites (Alghero, Bisarcio, Geridu, and Sassari) were determined and used as biomarkers to evaluate diet and potential social-environmental differences. Concentrations of Ba, Ca, Cd, Cu, Hg, Pb, Sr, and Zn were quantified in different types of compact bone (femur, fibula, humerus, radius, tibia, ulna) by sector field inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry previous acidic digestion and differences among the various burial sites, centuries, types of bone, gender, and age were explored by univariate and multivariate analyses. Results indicated differences between sites in terms of diet: Bisarcio (inland village) had increased ratios of Ba/Ca and Zn/Ca due to higher incidence of vegetables, cereals, and animal foods in the diet; Geridu (coastal village) showed increased Sr/Ca ratio indicating foods of plant and marine origin that were predominant; Alghero (coastal site) and Sassari (inland site) displayed prevalently a mixed diet reflecting a higher economy and food imports. In addition, these latter sites showed increased levels of Hg/Ca (fish, drugs, cosmetics) and Pb/Ca (coins, utensils, pipeline for water). In conclusion, the elemental Ba/Ca, Sr/Ca, and Zn/Ca ratios were indicative of provenance and diet, while Hg/Ca and Pb/Ca ratios were associated to various forms of environmental exposure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8404-8414
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2018


  • Bones
  • Diet
  • Environment
  • Metals
  • Middle age
  • Sardinia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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