Send to

Choose Destination
Analyst. 1995 Mar;120(3):721-4.

Toxicity of organomercury compounds: bioassay results as a basis for risk assessment.

Author information

GKSS-Research Centre, Institute of Chemistry, Geesthacht, Germany.


A former mercury plant, where mercury salts and organomercurials for pesticide use were produced, caused soil contamination in high concentrations. Typical organomercurial products included ethylmercury, phenylmercury, methoxyethylmercury and ethoxyethylmercury compounds. Risk assessment of these sites must be carried out before any major clean-up processes can be planned. A sensitive speciation technique for the various organomercury species in environmental matrices is a prerequisite for toxicity investigations. In this connection, a high-performance liquid chromatography-atomic fluorescence spectrometry (HPLC-AFS) technique has been developed to differentiate between and determine the presence of eight organomercury compounds in environmental samples. Using this technique, methylmercury, ethylmercury and phenylmercury and some unknown organomercury species were found in soil samples collected from the sites of an old mercury products producing plant. With regard to risk assessment, it is necessary to assess the toxicity of the organomercurials. As different microbial metabolic pathways react differently to mercury and its compounds, batteries of bioassays are, therefore, useful to evaluate the toxicity of pollutants. To describe the toxicity and genotoxicity of MeHg+, MeOEtHg+, EtHg+, EtOEtHg+ and PhHg+, p-tolymercury chloride, nitromersol and Hg2+ six bioassays were used: resazurin reduction method, Spirillum volutans test, nematode toxicity assay Panagrellus redivivus, Toxi-Chromotest and SOS-Chromotest. A ranking of the toxicity of the organomercurial is shown. The SOS-Chromotest indicated genotoxicity for 5-7 organomercurials.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Loading ...
Support Center