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Synchrotron speciation of umbilical cord mercury and selenium after environmental exposure in Niigata.

Neurotoxicology 2024 January
The insidious and deadly nature of mercury's organometallic compounds is informed by two large scale poisonings due to industrial mercury pollution that occurred decades ago in Minamata and Niigata, Japan. The present study examined chemical speciation for both mercury and selenium in a historic umbilical cord sample from a child born to a mother who lived near the Agano River in Niigata. The mother had experienced mercury exposure leading to more than 50 ppm mercury measured in her hair and was symptomatic 9 years prior to the birth. We sought to determine the mercury and selenium speciation in the child's cord using Hg Lα1 and Se Kα1 high-energy resolution fluorescence detected X-ray absorption spectroscopy, the chemical speciation of mercury was found to be predominantly organometallic and coordinated to a thiolate. The selenium was found to be primarily in an organic form and at levels higher than those of mercury, with no evidence of mercury-selenium chemical species. Our results are consistent with mercury exposure at Niigata being due to exposure to organometallic mercury species.

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