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

  • Brima, Eid I. (Department of Chemistry, College of Science, King Khalid University)
  • Published : 2016.10.01


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 ($598.8-812.2{\mu}g/g$), Mn ($51.0-80.6{\mu}g/g$), and Ni ($23.2-53.3{\mu}g/g$) in all four Shamma types. The lowest concentrations were for As ($0.7-1.0{\mu}g/g$) and Cd ($0.0-0.06{\mu}g/g$). 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.


Najran;Shamma;Smokeless tobacco;ICP-MS;Metal


Supported by : King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST)


  1. Abbas AM, Ahmed HG (2013). A case-control study of oral epithelial proliferative markers among Sudanese Toombak dippers using micronuclei assay, argyrophilic nucleolar organizer region, Papanicolaou and crystal violet methods. Rare Tumors, 5, 109-12.
  2. Addo M A, Gbadago JK, Affum H A, et al (2008). Smokeless tobacco use in the african region. Radioanal J Nucl Ch, 277, 517-24.
  3. Ahmad S, Chaudary M S, Qureshi IH (1979). Determination of toxic elements in tobacco products by instrumental neutron activation analysis. J Radioanal Chem, 54, 331-41.
  4. Akhtar S, Sheikh AA, Qureshi HU (2012). Chewing areca nut, betel quid, oral snuff, cigarette smoking and the risk of oesophageal squamous-cell carcinoma in South Asians: a multicentre case-control study. Eur J Cancer, 48, 655-61.
  5. Al-Jaber A, Al-Nasser L, El-Metwally A (2016). Epidemiology of oral cancer in arab countries. Saudi Med J, 37, 249- 55.
  6. Allard WF, DeVol EB, Te OB (1999). Smokeless tobacco (Shamma) and oral cancer in Saudi Arabia. Community Dent Oral Epidemiol, 27, 398-405.
  7. Al-Mukhaini N, Ba-Omar T, Eltayeb E, et al (2014).Determination of heavy metals in the common smokeless tobacco afzal in oman. Sultan Qaboos Univ Med J, 14, 349-55.
  8. Al-Rmalli SW (2012). Arsenic and Other Trace Elements in Bangladeshi Foods and Non-Foods and Their Relationship to Human Health. PhD Thesis UK, pp. 64.
  9. Alsanosy R M(2014). Smokeless Tobacco (Shammah) in Saudi Arabia: A Review of its Pattern of Use, Prevalence, and Potential Role in Oral CancerChemistry and toxicology of smokeless tobacco. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev, 15, 6477-83.
  10. Atsdr (2007a).Toxicological profile for barium. P.10-29. available: [accessed on:8 August 2016].
  11. Atsdr. (2007b). Toxicological Profile for Lead. 2007b; 31:21-169. Available: [accessed on:8 August 2016].
  12. Bhisey R A (2012). Chemistry and toxicology of smokeless tobacco. Indian J Cancer, 49, 364-72.
  13. Campbell RCJ (2014). Speciation of metals and mettaloids in tobacco and tobacco smoke: implications for health and regulations. PhD Thesis, UK. Available:[accessed on:17 September 2016].
  14. Chiba M, Masironi R (1992). Toxic and trace elements in tobacco and tobacco smoke. Bull World Health Organ, 70, 269-75.
  15. Dhaware D, Deshpande A, Khandeka RN, et al (2009). Determination of toxic metals in indian smokeless tobacco products. The Sci World J, 9, 1140 -47.
  16. FAO/WHO (1993). Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives. Evaluation of certain food additives and contaminants.WHO technical report series; 837. World Health Organization, Geneva.
  17. FAO/WHO (2007) Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives. Evaluation of certain food additives and contaminants.WHO technical report series; 940. World Health Organization, Geneva.
  18. FAO/WHO (2010). Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives. Summary report of the seventy-second meeting of JECFA. World Health Organization, Geneva.
  19. Fresquez MR, Pappas RS, Watson HC (2013).Establishment of toxic metal reference range in tobacco from US cigarettes. J Anal Toxicol, 37,298-304.
  20. Golia EE, Mitsios IK, Tsadilas CD (2016). Concentration of heavy heavy metals in burley, virginia and oriental tobacco leaves in the Thessaly region of central Greece. Available: [accessed on:8 August 2016].
  21. Hande AH, Chaudhary MS (2010). Cytomorphometric analysis of buccal mucosa of tobacco chewers. Rom J Morphol Embryol, 51, 527-32.
  22. Hannan MA, E1-Yazigi A, Paul M, et al (1986). Genotoxicity of 'Shamma', a chewing material suspected of causing oral cancer in Saudi Arabia. Mutat Res, 169, 41-6.
  23. Haustein KO, Groneberg, DA (2010). History of tobacco, tobacco or health? physiological and social damages caused by tobacco smoking. Springer Berlin Heidelberg pp.1-16.
  24. Houas I, Mouhamed DH, Gallelo G (2016). Is lithium implicated in tobacco addiction?. Eur Psychiat, 33 , S116.
  25. IARC (2007) IARC monographs on the evaluation of carcinogenic risks to humans, Vol. 89, Smokeless Tobacco, Lyon.
  26. Idris AM, Ibrahim SO, Vasstrand EN, et al (1998). The swedish Snus and the sudanese toombak: are they different?. Oral Oncol, 34, 558- 66.
  27. Kazi TG, Jalbani N, Arain MB, et al (2009). Determination of toxic elements in different brands of cigarette by atomic absorption spectrometry using ultrasonic assisted acid digestion. Environ Monit Assess, 154, 155-67.
  28. Kelleher P, Pacheco K, Newman LS (2000). Norganic dust pneumonias: the metal-related parenchymal disorders. Environ. Health Persp, 108, 685-96.
  29. Lee MY, Jung BI, Chung SM, et al (2003). Arsenic-induced dysfunction in relaxation of blood vessels. Environ Health Perspect, 111, 513-17.
  30. Makrami RM, Mathkur MYA, Makrami AM (2015).Smokeless tobacco (shamma) and oral squamous cell carcinoma in women, 3 years retrospective study , abu arish general hospital, IJRDO. J Biol Sci, 2, 74-7.
  31. Moller DR, Brooks SM, Bernstein D,et al (1986). Delayed anaphylactoid reaction in a worker exposed to chromium. J Allergy Clin Immunol, 77, 451-56.
  32. Musharraf SG, Shoaib M, Siddiqui AJ, Najam-ul-Haq M, Ahmed A (2012). Quantitative analysis of some important metals and metalloids in tobacco products by inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). Chem Cent J, 6, 56.
  33. Navas-Acien A, Selvin E, Sharrett AR, et al (2004). Lead, cadmium, smoking, and increased risk of peripheral arterial disease. Circulation, 109, 3196-3201.
  34. Pappas RS, Stanfill SB, Watson H, et al (2008). Analysis of toxic metals in commercial moist snuff and Alaskan iqmik. J Anal Toxicol, 32, 281-91.
  35. Pappas RS (2011).Toxic elements in tobacco and in cigarette smoke: inflammation and sensitization. Metallomics, 3, 1181-98.
  36. Pappas RS, Martone N, Gonzalez-Jimenez N, et al (2015). Determination of toxic metals in little cigar tobacco with 'triple quad' ICP-MS. J Anal Toxicol, 39, 347-52.
  37. Perl DP, Good PF (1987). Uptake of aluminium into central nervous system along nasal- olfactory pathways. Lancet, 1, 1028.
  38. Prabhakar V, Jayakrishnan G, Nair SV, Ranganathan B (2013). Determination of trace metals, moisture, pH and assessment of potential toxicity of selected smokeless tobacco products. Indian J Pharm Sci, 75, 262-69.
  39. Rahmi A, Razak I A, Basuki B, et al (2014). Tobacco (kretek) smoking, betel quid chewing and risk of oral cancer in a selected jakarta population. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev, 15, 8673-78.
  40. Regassa G, Chandravanshi BS (2016). Levels of heavy metals in the raw and processed ethiopian tobacco leaves. SpringerPlus, 5, 232.
  41. Rice TM, Clarke RW, Godleski JJ, et al (2001). Differential ability of transition metals to induce pulmonary inflammation. Toxicol Appl Pharmaco, 177, 46-53.
  42. Ruegger MS , (1995). Lung disorders due to metals. Med. Wochenschr, 125, 467-74.
  43. Stephens WE, Calder A, Newton J (2005). Source and health implications of high toxic metal concentrations in illicit tobacco products. Environ Sci Technol, 39, 479-88.
  44. Talhout R, Schulz T, Florek E, et al (2011). Hazardous Compounds in Tobacco Smoke. Int J Environ Res Public Health, 8, 613-28.
  45. Tchounwou PB, Yedjou CG, Patlolla AK, et al (2014). Heavy metals toxicity and the environment NIH public access, EXS, 101, 133-64.
  46. WHO (World Health Organisation) (1982). Toxicological evaluation of certain food additives: copper, zinc. WHO food additives series, No. 17.
  47. Watson DH (2001). Food Chemical Safety, Volume 1 contaminants; Woodhead Publishing 1st edtion, pp. 162.