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: 4.37). 12/2000; 84(3):211-218. DOI: 10.1006/enrs.2000.4116


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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    • "As a result, these laboratory tests do not necessarily provide a measure of tissue body burden. For example, Hg may remain in the blood for 12 months following exposure (Begerow et al. 1994); however, Hg has been shown to remain in the tissues, such as the liver and brain, for much longer, even decades (Falnoga et al. 2000). Figure 1 shows the principal target organs and other target areas where mercury compounds tend to accumulate. "
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    ABSTRACT: Measuring toxic metal body burden is particularly important in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) because evidence indicates that children with ASD have a greater susceptibility to heavy-metal intoxication than typically developing children. The more traditional laboratory tests used to measure toxic metal levels in ASD provide a snapshot of current exposure but do not necessarily provide a measure of tissue body burden. A more recent approach is to use urinary porphyrins which provide an indirect measure of toxic metal body burden. Urinary porphyrins are not a direct measure of toxic metals in the urine but a measure of tissue body burden by the level of disruption of the heme synthesis pathway caused by the presence of toxic metals in the tissues. Recent evidence suggests that the levels of mercury-associated porphyrins are different in children with ASD as compared to controls, with significantly increased levels of pentacarboxyporphyrin (5cxP), precoproporphyrins (prcP), and coproporphyrins (cP). In addition, there is a significant relationship between the severity of the child’s autism symptoms and the elevation of mercury-associated urinary porphyrins (i.e., the higher the mercury-associated porphyrins, the more severely affected the child). The mercury-associated porphyrins can be lowered with chelation therapy, and porphyrin profile testing can be used in clinical medicine in the targeted treatment of heavy-metal toxicity.
    Full-text · Chapter · Jan 2014
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    • "The heavy metal mercury accumulates in the human thyroid gland, as shown in studies of occupationally exposed workers (Falnoga et al., 2000; Nylander and Weiner, 1991) and industrially exposed residents (Falnoga et al., 2000). Higher levels of hair mercury, an indicator of organic mercury exposure (ATSDR, 1999), have been associated with detectable antinucleolar autoantibodies, biomarkers of cellular autoimmunity, in a non-occupationally-exposed, fisheating riverine population (Silva et al., 2004). "
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    ABSTRACT: Associations between positive thyroid autoantibodies and total blood mercury in women were evaluated using the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 2007-2008. Women are at increased risk for autoimmune disorders, mercury exposure has been associated with cellular autoimmunity and mercury accumulates in the thyroid gland. We used multiple logistic regression to evaluate the associations between total bloodmercury and thyroglobulin autoantibody antibody positivity and thyroid peroxidase autoantibody positivity in non-pregnant, non-lactating women aged 20 and older not currently using birth control pills or other hormone therapies, adjusted for demographic factors, menopausal status, nutrient intake and urine iodine (n=2047). Relative to women with the lowest mercury levels (≤0.40 μg/L), women with mercury >1.81 μg/L (upper quintile) showed 2.24 (95% CI=1.22, 4.12) greater odds for thyroglobulin autoantibody positivity (p(trend)=0.032); this relationship was not evident for thyroid peroxidase autoantibody positivity. Results suggest an association between mercury and thyroglobulin autoantibody positivity.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2012 · Environment international
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    • "Table 1. Total Hg concentration in autopsy samples (homogenised tissue) of pituitary gland, pineal gland, hippocampus, nucleus dentatus and cereballar cortex (ng/g fresh weight) in ex-miners of the Idrija Mercury Mine and controls (data adapted by Falnoga et al., 2000). "

    Full-text · Chapter · Mar 2012
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