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Sci Total Environ. 1998 Jan 19;209(2-3):185-92.

Elements in the hair of South-east Asian islanders.

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Department of Community, Occupational and Family Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, National University of Singapore, Singapore.


Mercury (Hg), lead (Pb), cadmium (Cd) and copper (Cu) in hair samples from Singapore island (85 samples) and two islands off Batam, Indonesia (68 samples) were analysed to assess the environmental uptake of elements. Hair samples were washed with 0.1% Triton X-100 solution for 20 min in an ultrasonic bath, rinsed five times with de-ionized water and air dried. Ten to 20 mg of hair samples were digested with 1 ml of ultra-pure concentrated nitric acid in Parr bombs at 120 degrees C for 2 h. Hair digests were analysed by atomic absorption spectrophotometry (AAS). Hg was determined by the cold vapour AAS method and Pb, Cd and Cu by the electro-thermal graphite furnace AAS method. For Singapore hair, the contents of Cd (in microgram/g) averaged 0.17 (range 0.02-1.81); Cu 13.2 (range 3.1-70.1); Hg 5.92 (range 1.14-35.52); and Pb 6.74 (range 0.06-107.8). For the islands off Batam, Cd was 0.32 (range 0.06-1.80); Cu 21.1 (range 3.8-143.6); Hg 5.59 (range 0.78-60.86); and Pb 15.1 (range 0.13-116.6). Statistically significant differences in Cd, Pb and Hg contents were observed between the hair samples from Singapore and those of the islands off Batam in cumulative logit analysis. Hair from Singapore contained more Hg, but less Cd and Pb compared to hair from the islands off Batam. For Pb in hair, significant differences were also observed between the two islands off Batam (island 1, 18.9; and island 2, 10.2). These differences in hair metal contents are due to differences in community lifestyle (dietary, environmental or occupational intake).

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