Conclusions

Exposure to methylmercury may be conveniently assessed by analyzing the mercury concentration in scalp hair. Hair-mercury concentrations are affected by several factors, including hair color and variable growth rates, which somewhat limit its usefulness as an indicator of mercury concentrations in the body. However, past exposure levels can be determined by analyzing segments of hair if assuming a constant hair growth rate. Blood concentrations correlate well (r = 0.84) with concentrations in hair close to the root. Prenatal exposure to methylmercury may be determined from analysis of maternal hair or cord blood. The latter parameter shows a better association with mercury-related neurobehavioral deficits, and this exposure biomarker should therefore be preferred in future studies.

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