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Mercury hair levels and factors that influence exposure for residents of Huancavelica, Peru
Hagan, N., N. Robins, H. Hsu-Kim, S. Halabi, R. Espinoza Gonzales, E. Ecos, D. Richter, AND J. Vandenberg. Mercury hair levels and factors that influence exposure for residents of Huancavelica, Peru. ENVIRONMENTAL GEOCHEMISTRY AND HEALTH. Lonsdale Press, Ltd., London, Uk, 37:507-514, (2014).
This manuscript is a result of an ongoing, transdisciplinary study involving experts from Duke University, North Carolina State University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and EPA. This study is an investigation of present-day mercury contamination from historical emissions in Huancavelica, Peru. The present manuscript reflects one part of the overall project, which characterizes individual exposure to mercury using total and speciated Hg from residential samples, total Hg in hair, and self-reported questionnaire data regarding factors influencing exposure (e.g., frequency of fish consumption, occupation).
Between 1564 and 1810, nearly 17,000 metric tons of mercury (Hg) vapor were released to the environment during cinnabar refining in the small town of Huancavelica, Peru. The present study characterizes individual exposure to mercury using total and speciated Hg from residential samples, total Hg in hair, and self-reported questionnaire data regarding factors influencing exposure (e.g., frequency of fish consumption, occupation). Total Hg concentrations in hair from 118 participants ranged from 0.10 to 3.6 µg/g, similar to concentrations found in the U.S. and lower than concentrations in other Hg-exposed populations around the world. Pearson correlation coefficients for data in this study suggest that, while there is a positive association between concentrations of total Hg in hair and concentrations of total Hg in adobe bricks, dirt floors, and surface dust, these correlations are not statistically significant. Results of a one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) identified that total Hg concentrations in hair were significantly related to gender (p<0.001), living in a neighborhood where smelters were previously located (p=0.021), smoking status (p=0.003), frequency of house cleaning (p=0.019), and frequency of fish consumption (p=0.046). These results highlight the need for future studies to better characterize Hg exposure in Huancavelica, particularly as related to residential contamination. A comprehensive analysis of residential Hg contamination and exposure in Huancavelica will guide the development and implementation of mitigation and remediation strategies in the community to reduce potential health risks from residential Hg exposure.
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