A quest to identify suitable organic tracers for estimating children’s dust ingestion rates

Dimitri Panagopoulos Abrahamsson, Jon R. Sobus, Elin M. Ulrich, Kristin Isaacs, Christoph Moschet, Thomas M. Young, Deborah H. Bennett, Nicolle S. Tulve

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Chemical exposure via dust ingestion is of great interest to researchers and regulators because children are exposed to dust through their daily activities, and as a result, to the many chemicals contained within dust. Our goal was to develop a workflow to identify and rank organic chemicals that could be used as tracers to calculate children’s dust ingestion rates. We proposed a set of criteria for a chemical to be considered a promising tracer. The best tracers must be (1) ubiquitous in dust, (2) unique to dust, (3) detectable as biomarkers in accessible biological samples, and (4) have available or obtainable ADME information for biomarker-based exposure reconstruction. To identify compounds meeting these four criteria, we developed a workflow that encompasses non-targeted analysis approaches, literature and database searching, and multimedia modeling. We then implemented an ad hoc grading system and ranked candidate chemicals based on fulfillment of our criteria (using one small, publicly available dataset to show proof of concept). Initially, five chemicals (1,3-diphenylguanidine, leucine, piperine, 6:2/8:2 fluorotelomer phosphate diester, 6:2 fluorotelomer phosphate diester) appeared to satisfy many of our criteria. However, a rigorous manual investigation raised many questions about the applicability of these chemicals as tracers. Based on the results of this initial pilot study, no individual compounds can be unequivocally considered suitable tracers for calculating dust ingestion rates. Future work must therefore consider larger datasets, generated from broader measurement studies and literature searches, as well as refinements to selection criteria, to identify robust and defensible tracer compounds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology
StateAccepted/In press - 2020


  • children
  • dust
  • exposure
  • tracer identification
  • tracers
  • workflow

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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