Assessment of mercury exposure among small-scale gold miners using mercury stable isotopes.


Journal Article

Total mercury (Hg) concentrations in hair and urine are often used as biomarkers of exposure to fish-derived methylmercury (MeHg) and gaseous elemental Hg, respectively. We used Hg stable isotopes to assess the validity of these biomarkers among small-scale gold mining populations in Ghana and Indonesia. Urine from Ghanaian miners displayed similar Δ(199)Hg values to Hg derived from ore deposits (mean urine Δ(199)Hg=0.01‰, n=6). This suggests that urine total Hg concentrations accurately reflect exposure to inorganic Hg among this population. Hair samples from Ghanaian miners displayed low positive Δ(199)Hg values (0.23-0.55‰, n=6) and low percentages of total Hg as MeHg (7.6-29%, n=7). These data suggest that the majority of the Hg in these miners' hair samples is exogenously adsorbed inorganic Hg and not fish-derived MeHg. Hair samples from Indonesian gold miners who eat fish daily displayed a wider range of positive Δ(199)Hg values (0.21-1.32‰, n=5) and percentages of total Hg as MeHg (32-72%, n=4). This suggests that total Hg in the hair samples from Indonesian gold miners is likely a mixture of ingested fish MeHg and exogenously adsorbed inorganic Hg. Based on data from both populations, we suggest that total Hg concentrations in hair samples from small-scale gold miners likely overestimate exposure to MeHg from fish consumption.

Full Text

Cited Authors

  • Sherman, LS; Blum, JD; Basu, N; Rajaee, M; Evers, DC; Buck, DG; Petrlik, J; DiGangi, J

Published Date

  • February 2015

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 137 /

Start / End Page

  • 226 - 234

PubMed ID

  • 25577187

Pubmed Central ID

  • 25577187

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1096-0953

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0013-9351

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.envres.2014.12.021


  • eng