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Biol Trace Elem Res. 2013 Feb;151(2):187-94. doi: 10.1007/s12011-012-9561-z. Epub 2012 Dec 15.

Relationship between mercury levels in hair and fish consumption in a population living near a hydroelectric tropical dam.

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Laboratory Toxicology and Environmental Management, University of Córdoba, Montería, Colombia.


In the present study, total mercury (T-Hg) concentrations were assessed in human hair samples (n = 76) and fish muscle (n = 33) collected at Urrá dam, upstream Sinú river, northwestern Colombia. Based on interviews with study participants, weekly intakes of total mercury (WIT-Hg) and methylmercury (WIMeHg) by fish consumption were also estimated. T-Hg concentrations in hair samples ranged from 0.40 to 24.56 μg/g dw. The highest concentrations were recorded in children (CH) (2-15 years old, n = 24) with significant differences (p < 0.05) with respect to women of childbearing age (WCHA) (16-49 years old, n = 29) and the rest of the population (RP) (n = 23), which were not significantly different. The highest T-Hg concentrations in muscle tissue were recorded in the carnivorous fish (0.65-2.25 μg/g wet weight, ww), with significant differences (p < 0.05) compared to non-carnivorous fish (0.16-0.54 μg/g ww). WIT-Hg recorded the highest values in CH (2.18-50.41 μg/kg/week), with significant differences (p < 0.05) with respect to WCHA (2.02-23.54 μg/kg/week) and RP (1.09-24.71 μg/kg/week), which were not significantly different. Correlation analysis showed a significant relationship between weekly fish consumption and hair T-Hg in CH (r = 0.37, p < 0.05) and WCHA (r = 0.44, p < 0.05). This association was also observed with the number of days per week with fish consumption in CH (r = 0.37, p < 0.05) and WCHA (r = 0.45, p < 0.05). These results suggest that Hg exposure in people inhabiting the Urrá dam should be carefully monitored, particularly in vulnerable groups such as CH and WCHA.

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