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Issue 11, 2011
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The chemical forms of mercury and selenium in whale skeletal muscle

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Human exposure to potentially neurotoxic methylmercury species is a public-health concern for many populations worldwide. Both fish and whale are known to contain varying amounts of methylmercury species. However studies of populations that consume large quantities of fish or whale have provided no clear consensus as to the extent of the risk. The toxicological profile of an element depends strongly on its chemical form. We have used X-ray absorption spectroscopy to investigate the comparative chemical forms of mercury and selenium in fish and whale skeletal muscle. The predominant chemical form of mercury in whale is found to closely resemble that found in fish. In the samples of skeletal muscle studied, no involvement of selenium in coordination of mercury is indicated in either whale or fish, with no significant inorganic HgSe or HgS type phases being detected. The selenium speciation in fish and whale shows that similar chemical types are present in each, but in significantly different proportions. Our results suggest that for equal amounts of Hg in skeletal muscle, the direct detrimental effects arising from the mercury content from consuming skeletal muscle from whale and fish should be similar if the effects of interactions with other components in the meat are not considered.

Graphical abstract: The chemical forms of mercury and selenium in whale skeletal muscle

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Publication details

The article was received on 28 Jun 2011, accepted on 05 Sep 2011 and first published on 21 Sep 2011

Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C1MT00077B
Citation: Metallomics, 2011,3, 1232-1237
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    The chemical forms of mercury and selenium in whale skeletal muscle

    G. N. George, T. C. MacDonald, M. Korbas, S. P. Singh, G. J. Myers, G. E. Watson, J. L. O'Donoghue and I. J. Pickering, Metallomics, 2011, 3, 1232
    DOI: 10.1039/C1MT00077B

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