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Biomonitoring Equivalents for selenium



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Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2014 Oct;70(1):333-9. doi: 10.1016/j.yrtph.2014.07.017. Epub 2014 Jul 25.

Biomonitoring Equivalents for selenium.

Hays SM1, Macey K2, Nong A2, Aylward LL3.

  • 1Summit Toxicology, LLP, Allenspark, CO, USA. Electronic address: shays@summittoxicology.com.
  • 2Health Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
  • 3Summit Toxicology, LLP, Falls Church, VA, USA.


Selenium is an essential nutrient for human health with a narrow range between essentiality and toxicity.

Selenium is incorporated into several proteins that perform important functions in the body. With insufficient selenium intake, the most notable effect is Keshan disease, an endemic cardiomyopathy in children.

Conversely, excessive selenium intake can result in selenosis, manifested as brittle nails and hair and gastro-intestinal disorders. As such, guidance values have been established to protect against both insufficient and excessive selenium exposures.

Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) have been established as standard reference values for nutritional adequacy in North America. To protect against selenosis resulting from exposure to excessive amounts of selenium, several government and non-governmental agencies have established a range of guidance values.

Exposure to selenium is primarily through the diet, but monitoring selenium intake is difficult.

Biomonitoring is a useful means of assessing and monitoring selenium status for both insufficient and excessive exposures. However, to be able to interpret selenium biomonitoring data, levels associated with both DRIs and toxicity guidance values are required.

Biomonitoring Equivalents (BEs) were developed for selenium in whole blood, plasma and urine.

  • The BEs associated with assuring adequate selenium intake (Estimated Average Requirements - EAR) are 100, 80 and 10μg/L in whole blood, plasma and urine, respectively.
  • The BEs associated with protection against selenosis range from 400 to 480μg/L in whole blood, 180-230μg/L in plasma, and 90-110μg/L in urine.

These BE values can be used by both regulatory agencies and public health officials to interpret selenium biomonitoring data in a health risk context.

Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

KEYWORDS:  Biomonitoring; Biomonitoring Equivalents; Risk assessment; Selenium

PMID:  25068883

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