Determination of Metal Levels in Shamma (Smokeless Tobacco) with Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) in Najran, Saudi Arabia


Department of Chemistry, College of Science, King Khalid University, Abha, KSA


Objective: The use of Shamma (smokeless tobacco) by certain groups is giving rise to health problems, including cancer, in parts of Saudi Arabia. Our objective was to determine metals levels in Shamma using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). Methods: Thirty-three samples of Shamma (smokeless tobacco) were collected, comprising four types: brown Shamma (n = 14.0), red Shamma (n = 9.0), white Shamma (n = 4.0), and yellow Shamma (n = 6.0). All samples were collected randomly from Shamma users in the city of Najran. Levels of 11 elements (Al, As, Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, Li, Mn, Ni, Pb, and Zn) were determined by ICP-MS. Results: A mixed standard (20 ppb) of all elements was used for quality control, and average recoveries ranged from 74.7% to 112.2%. The highest average concentrations were found in the following order: Al (598.8–812.2 μg/g), Mn (51.0–80.6 μg/g), and Ni (23.2–53.3 μg/g) in all four Shamma types. The lowest concentrations were for As (0.7–1.0 μg/g) and Cd (0.0–0.06 μg/g). Conclusions: The colour of each Shamma type reflects additives mixed into the tobacco. Cr and Cu were showed significant differences (P < 0.05) among Shamma types. Moreover, Pb levels are higher in red and yellow Shamma, which could be due to use (PbCrO4) as yellow colouring agent and lead tetroxide, Pb3O4 as a red colouring agent. The findings from this study can be used to raise public awareness about the safety and health effects of Shamma, which is clearly a source of oral exposure to metals.