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Anal Bioanal Chem. 2008 Dec;392(7-8):1283-90. doi: 10.1007/s00216-008-2403-3. Epub 2008 Oct 1.

Mercury speciation and total trace element determination of low-biomass biological samples.

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Trace Element Analysis Core, Dartmouth College, 6105 Fairchild, Hanover, NH 03755, USA.


Current approaches to mercury speciation and total trace element analysis require separate extraction/digestions of the sample. Ecologically important aquatic organisms--notably primary consumers such as zooplankton, polychaetes and amphipods--usually yield very low biomass for analysis, even with significant compositing of multiple organisms. Individual organisms in the lower aquatic food chains (mussels, snails, oysters, silversides, killifish) can also have very low sample mass, and analysis of whole single organisms is important to metal uptake studies. A method for the determination of both methyl Hg and total heavy metal concentrations (Zn, As, Se, Cd, Hg, Pb) in a single, low-mass sample of aquatic organisms was developed. Samples (2 to 50 mg) were spiked with enriched with (201)MeHg and (199)Hg, then leached in 4 M HNO(3) at 55 degrees C for extraction of MeHg. After 16 h, an aliquot (0.05 mL) was removed to determine mercury species (methyl and inorganic Hg) by isotope dilution gas chromatography inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). The leachate was then acidified to 9 M HNO(3) and digested in a microwave at 150 degrees C for 10 min, and total metal concentrations were determined by collision cell ICP-MS. The method was validated by analyzing five biological certified reference materials. Average percent recoveries for Zn, As, Se, Cd, MeHg, Hg(total) and Pb were 99.9%, 103.5%, 100.4%, 103.3%, 101%, 97.7%, and 97.1%, respectively. The correlation between the sum of MeHg and inorganic Hg from the speciation analysis and total Hg by conventional digestion of the sample was determined for a large sample set of aquatic invertebrates (n = 285). Excellent agreement between the two measured values was achieved. This method is advantageous in situations where sample size is limited, and where correlations between Hg species and other metals are required in the same sample. The method also provides further validation of speciation data, by corroborating the sum of the Hg species concentrations with the total Hg concentration.

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