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

Academic 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.
  • Authors

  • Sherman, Laura S
  • Blum, Joel D
  • Basu, Niladri
  • Rajaee, Mozhgon
  • Evers, David C
  • Buck, David
  • Petrlik, Jindrich
  • DiGangi, Joseph
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • February 2015
  • Published In


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Female
  • Fishes
  • Ghana
  • Hair
  • Humans
  • Indonesia
  • Male
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Mercury
  • Mercury Isotopes
  • Mercury isotopes
  • Methylmercury
  • Methylmercury Compounds
  • Middle Aged
  • Mining
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Small-scale gold mining
  • Soil Pollutants
  • Young Adult
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Pubmed Id

  • 25577187
  • Start Page

  • 226
  • End Page

  • 234
  • Volume

  • 137