Children's exposure to mercury-contaminated soils: Exposure assessment and risk characterization

Mert Guney, Bruno Welfringer, Carl De Repentigny, Gerald J. Zagury

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Exposure to mercury (Hg)-contaminated soils may pose a health risk to children by way of oral, dermal, and inhalatory pathways. However, risk characterization studies, including contaminant bioaccessibility with child-specific exposure parameters and scenarios, are lacking. The objectives of this study were (1) to assess children's Hg exposure using characterization and oral bioaccessibility data from Hg-contaminated soils characterized in previous studies (n = 8); and (2) to characterize probabilistic risk in terms of hazard index (HI) considering ingestion, dermal, and inhalation pathways. Total Hg concentrations in soils ranged from 2.61 to 1.15 × 104 mg kg-1. For moderately contaminated soils (S1-S5: Hg ≤ 12.15 mg kg-1), low oral bioaccessibility values (1.5-7.5 %) lead to HI < 1 in all scenarios. However, exposure to highly contaminated soils (S6-S8) may pose serious risks to children under normal exposure (HI 0.89-66.5) and soil-pica behaviour scenarios (HI up to 131). All three pathways significantly contributed to the risk. Using total Hg concentrations in calculations (assuming 100 % bioavailability) instead of considering Hg bioavailability leads to risk overestimation. Further research on oral, inhalatory, and dermal bioavailability of Hg, as well as child play behaviour, is recommended to obtain more accurate risk estimates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)345-355
Number of pages11
JournalArchives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Pollution
  • Toxicology

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