Assessment of mercury exposure in human populations: A status report from Augusta Bay (southern Italy)

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Abstract

Here we investigate mercury concentrations in the blood (HgB), urine (HgU) and human hair (HgH) of 224 individuals from a coastal area (Eastern Sicily, SE Italy) strongly affected by Hg contamination from one of the largest chlor-alkali plants in Europe. The factors affecting the distribution of Hg and the extent of the exposure of individuals have been explored with a multidisciplinary approach. Multiple regression analyses, together with evidence of high levels of HgB (exceeding the HBMI recommended levels in 50% of cases) and HgH (exceeding the EPA reference dose in 70% of cases), primarily suggest that the consumption of local fish is the main source of Hg for humans. no. significant exposure to inorganic mercury was identified. Toxicokinetic calculations produced a provisional tolerable weekly intake (PTWI) level that, in most cases, exceeds international recommendations, particularly for residents in the studied area.

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