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Environmental science & technology

In vitro studies evaluating leaching of mercury from mine waste calcine using simulated human body fluids.


PMID 20491469

Abstract

In vitro bioaccessibility (IVBA) studies were carried out on samples of mercury (Hg) mine-waste calcine (roasted Hg ore) by leaching with simulated human body fluids. The objective was to estimate potential human exposure to Hg due to inhalation of airborne calcine particulates and hand-to-mouth ingestion of Hg-bearing calcines. Mine waste calcines collected from Hg mines at Almaden, Spain, and Terlingua, Texas, contain Hg sulfide, elemental Hg, and soluble Hg compounds, which constitute primary ore or compounds formed during Hg retorting. Elevated leachate Hg concentrations were found during calcine leaching using a simulated gastric fluid (as much as 6200 microg of Hg leached/g sample). Elevated Hg concentrations were also found in calcine leachates using a simulated lung fluid (as much as 9200 microg of Hg leached/g), serum-based fluid (as much as 1600 microg of Hg leached/g), and water of pH 5 (as much as 880 microg of Hg leached/g). The leaching capacity of Hg is controlled by calcine mineralogy; thus, calcines containing soluble Hg compounds contain higher leachate Hg concentrations. Results indicate that ingestion or inhalation of Hg mine-waste calcine may lead to increased Hg concentrations in the human body, especially through the ingestion pathway.

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