JOURNAL ARTICLE
RESEARCH SUPPORT, NON-U.S. GOV'T
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Scalp hair as a biomarker in environmental and occupational mercury exposed populations: suitable or not?

Hair is a well-established and widely used matrix for measuring mercury exposure of an individual. Although a variety of washing procedures to remove external mercury contamination have been proposed, no standardized procedures are available yet. In this study, different washing reagents like l-cysteine (Cys), 2-mercaptoethanol (ME), and disodium diaminoethanetetra acetate (EDTA) were used to find out if it is possible to remove mercury contamination from human scalp hair spiked with HgCl2 solutions at different concentrations. It was found that the external mercury contamination could not be fully washed off even using reagents with high affinity to mercury like l-cysteine and ME. However, for the well-pulverized CRM hair samples some of the endogenous mercury was washed off. It suggests that hair is not a suitable biomarker for evaluation of total mercury exposure especially in people like mercury miners or gold miners/burners associated with serious external Hg exposure. However, hair still can be used as an indicator for methyl mercury exposure because, generally, there is almost no exogenous contamination of methyl mercury in hair.

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