Mercury concentrations in hair from populations in Wau-Bulolo area, Papua New Guinea

Research paper by K. Saeki, M. Fujimoto, D. Kolinjim, R. Tatsukawa

Indexed on: 01 Mar '96Published on: 01 Mar '96Published in: Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology


Total mercury (Hg) concentrations were determined in scalp hair from the populations in the Wau-Bulolo area, eastern Papua New Guinea (PNG), where humans are exposed to large quantities of Hg through gold-mining activities by Hg amalgamation processes. Humans living upstream and not engaged in gold mining had a mean hair Hg concentration of 0.55 μg g−1 (range: 0.19–1.1 μg g−1) (n=80), which was recognized as the background level in this area. In contrast, the populations involved in gold-mining activities had a significantly higher level of hair Hg (mean: 1.2 μg g−1, range: 0.39–3.0 μg g−1) (n=86) than the background level, indicating direct or indirect exposure to Hg from gold mining. The hair Hg level in populations downstream of the gold-mining area was significantly higher than the background level, due to the consumption of Hg-contaminated fish. Mercury concentrations were significantly higher in males than in females, regardless of location properties.