Mercury, Selenium, and Cadmium in Human Autopsy Samples from Idrija Residents and Mercury Mine Workers

Department of Environmental Sciences, Jožef Stefan Institute, Jamova 39, 1111, Ljubljana, Slovenia
Environmental Research (Impact Factor: 3.95). 12/2000; DOI: 10.1006/enrs.2000.4116

ABSTRACT Total Hg and Se concentrations were determined in autopsy samples of retired Idrija mercury mine workers, Idrija residents living in a Hg-contami-nated environment, and a control group with no known Hg exposure from the environment. In selected samples we also checked the presence of MeHg. The highest Hg concentrations were found in endocrine glands and kidney cortex, regardless of the group. MeHg contributed only to a negligible degree to the total mercury concentrations in all analyzed samples. In the Hg-exposed groups the coaccumulation and retention of mercury and selenium was confirmed. Selenium coaccumulation with a Hg/Se molar ratio near 1 or higher was notable only in those tissue samples (thyroid, pituitary, kidney cortex, nucleus dentatus) where the mercury concentrations were >1 μg/g. After tissue separation of such samples the majority of these elements were found in the cell pellet. Because the general population is continuously exposed to Cd and possibly also to Pb from water, food, and/or air, in some samples the levels of these elements were also followed. In all examined control tissue samples the average values of Cd (kidney cortex, thyroid, hippocampus, cortex cerebellum, nucleus dentatus) and Pb (thyroid, hippocampus) exceeded the average values of Hg. Cd concentrations were the highest, particularly in kidney cortex and thyroids (μg/g), but no relationship between Cd and Se concentration was evident at the tissue level. Regarding the results in the control group, it is debatable which element is the more hazardous for the general population as concerns neurotoxicity.

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