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

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{sup 199}Hg values to Hg derived from ore deposits (mean urine Δ{sup 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{sup 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{sup 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-scalemore » gold miners likely overestimate exposure to MeHg from fish consumption. - Highlights: • Mercury isotopes were measured in hair and urine from small-scale gold miners. • Mercury isotopes indicate that Hg in urine comes from mining activity. • Mercury isotopes suggest Hg in hair is a mixture of fish MeHg and inorganic Hg. • A large percentage of Hg in miner’s hair is released during amalgam burning and adsorbed.« less
Authors:
 [1] ;  [1] ;  [2] ;  [3] ; ;  [4] ;  [5] ;  [6]
  1. University of Michigan, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, 1100 North University Avenue, Ann Arbor, MI 48109 (United States)
  2. McGill University, Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, 21,111 Lakeshore Road, Ste. Anne de Bellevue, Quebec, Canada H9X3V9 (Canada)
  3. University of Michigan, Department of Environmental Health Sciences, 1415 Washington Heights, Ann Arbor, MI 48109 (United States)
  4. Biodiversity Research Institute, 19 Flaggy Meadow Road, Gorham, ME 04038 (United States)
  5. Arnika Association, Chlumova 17, Prague 3 (Czech Republic)
  6. IPEN, Box 7256, SE-402 35 Gothenburg (Sweden)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
22483278
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Environmental Research; Journal Volume: 137; Other Information: Copyright (c) 2014 Elsevier Science B.V., Amsterdam, The Netherlands, All rights reserved.; Country of input: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; BIOLOGICAL MARKERS; CONCENTRATION RATIO; ECOLOGICAL CONCENTRATION; FRACTIONATION; HAIR; ICP MASS SPECTROSCOPY; MERCURY; MERCURY ALLOYS; MERCURY ISOTOPES; METHYLMERCURY; MINERS; MINING; POLLUTANTS; STABLE ISOTOPES; URINE