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Exposure and toxic effects of elemental mercury in gold-mining activities in Ecuador

Harari, Raul; Harari, Florencia; Gerhardsson, Lars LU ; Lundh, Thomas LU ; Skerfving, Staffan LU ; Strömberg, Ulf LU and Broberg Palmgren, Karin LU (2012) In Toxicology Letters 213(1). p.75-82
Abstract
Traditional gold mining, using metallic mercury (Hg-0) to form gold amalgam, followed by burning to remove the Hg-0, is widely used in South America, Africa and Asia. The gold is sold to merchants who burn it again to eliminate remaining Hg-0. In Ecuador, 200 gold miners, 37 gold merchants and 72 referents were studied. The median Hg concentrations in urine (U-Hg) were 3.3 (range 0.23-170), 37 (3.2-420), and 1.6 (0.2-13) mu g/g creatinine, respectively, and in whole blood (B-Hg) were 5.2, 30, and 5.0 mu g/L, respectively. Biomarker concentrations among merchants were statistically significantly higher than among miners and referents; also the miners differed from the referents. Burning of gold amalgam among miners was intermittent; U-Hg... (More)
Traditional gold mining, using metallic mercury (Hg-0) to form gold amalgam, followed by burning to remove the Hg-0, is widely used in South America, Africa and Asia. The gold is sold to merchants who burn it again to eliminate remaining Hg-0. In Ecuador, 200 gold miners, 37 gold merchants and 72 referents were studied. The median Hg concentrations in urine (U-Hg) were 3.3 (range 0.23-170), 37 (3.2-420), and 1.6 (0.2-13) mu g/g creatinine, respectively, and in whole blood (B-Hg) were 5.2, 30, and 5.0 mu g/L, respectively. Biomarker concentrations among merchants were statistically significantly higher than among miners and referents; also the miners differed from the referents. Burning of gold amalgam among miners was intermittent; U-Hg decreased in the burning-free period. In computerized neuromotor examinations, B-Hg and U-Hg concentrations were associated with increases in the centre frequency of the tremor, as well as in reaction time and postural stability. Retention of Hg (B-Hg), and the elimination rate (U-Hg) appears to be modified by polymorphism in a gene of an enzyme in the glutathione synthesis (GCLM), but there were no significant genetic modifications for the associations between exposure and neurotoxicity. Thus, the gold merchants have a much higher exposure and risk than the miners, in whom the exposure varies over time. The metabolism of Hg is modified by genetic traits. The present exposure to Hg had limited neurotoxic effects. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved. (Less)
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author
organization
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Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Blood, Plasma, Urine, Genotype, Polymorphism, Excretion
in
Toxicology Letters
volume
213
issue
1
pages
75 - 82
publisher
Elsevier
external identifiers
  • wos:000307528900014
  • scopus:84864312734
ISSN
1879-3169
DOI
10.1016/j.toxlet.2011.09.006
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
449915b5-30fd-44e2-bf88-65783a8e6375 (old id 3151886)
date added to LUP
2012-11-01 09:33:53
date last changed
2017-06-25 04:08:55
@article{449915b5-30fd-44e2-bf88-65783a8e6375,
  abstract     = {Traditional gold mining, using metallic mercury (Hg-0) to form gold amalgam, followed by burning to remove the Hg-0, is widely used in South America, Africa and Asia. The gold is sold to merchants who burn it again to eliminate remaining Hg-0. In Ecuador, 200 gold miners, 37 gold merchants and 72 referents were studied. The median Hg concentrations in urine (U-Hg) were 3.3 (range 0.23-170), 37 (3.2-420), and 1.6 (0.2-13) mu g/g creatinine, respectively, and in whole blood (B-Hg) were 5.2, 30, and 5.0 mu g/L, respectively. Biomarker concentrations among merchants were statistically significantly higher than among miners and referents; also the miners differed from the referents. Burning of gold amalgam among miners was intermittent; U-Hg decreased in the burning-free period. In computerized neuromotor examinations, B-Hg and U-Hg concentrations were associated with increases in the centre frequency of the tremor, as well as in reaction time and postural stability. Retention of Hg (B-Hg), and the elimination rate (U-Hg) appears to be modified by polymorphism in a gene of an enzyme in the glutathione synthesis (GCLM), but there were no significant genetic modifications for the associations between exposure and neurotoxicity. Thus, the gold merchants have a much higher exposure and risk than the miners, in whom the exposure varies over time. The metabolism of Hg is modified by genetic traits. The present exposure to Hg had limited neurotoxic effects. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.},
  author       = {Harari, Raul and Harari, Florencia and Gerhardsson, Lars and Lundh, Thomas and Skerfving, Staffan and Strömberg, Ulf and Broberg Palmgren, Karin},
  issn         = {1879-3169},
  keyword      = {Blood,Plasma,Urine,Genotype,Polymorphism,Excretion},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {1},
  pages        = {75--82},
  publisher    = {Elsevier},
  series       = {Toxicology Letters},
  title        = {Exposure and toxic effects of elemental mercury in gold-mining activities in Ecuador},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.toxlet.2011.09.006},
  volume       = {213},
  year         = {2012},
}