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Whole blood mercury and selenium concentrations in a selected Austrian population: Does gender matter? *

Background Data on mercury exposure of the Austrian population were inadequate. This study was performed to determine the causal factors underlying mercury exposure and selenium concentrations, and to estimate the gender-related health impacts.

Methodology Venous blood samples of 78 women and 81 men were drawn at the Austrian Red Cross, Vienna. Mercury contents in acid-digested whole blood samples were measured after amalgam enrichment by CV-AAS, and selenium by AAS (heated quartz-cell) after hydrid formation.

Results The average total mercury blood content of Austrians was low (2.38 ± 1.55 μgL− 1; N = 152). Mercury and selenium concentrations were not different between the genders (P > 0.05) but we observed discrepancies regarding the causal factors. Mercury levels in men were influenced not only by fish consumption but also by age, education level, and amalgam fillings, whereas in women, only the diet (fish/seafood, red wine consumption) determined blood mercury (P < 0.05). Moreover, only the males indicated a depressive effect of dental amalgam on hematocrit (P < 0.05). Regarding selenium, age and alcohol consumption led to lower concentrations in men, whereas a high-level education had the opposite effect; no determinant was found for women. For the whole study group, a significant effect of chronic disease on selenium levels could be detected (P < 0.05). 18% of women and 13% of men showed marginal selenium deficiency (blood selenium < 65 μgL− 1). Selenium and mercury concentrations were not correlated.

Conclusions Our results indicate the need to evaluate and integrate gender-related findings in metal toxicology and trace element research, because different causal factors require different preventive measures to reduce mercury exposure and the risk of low selenium concentrations. Future research is needed on the gender- and age-related differences in fish/seafood consumption habits, the modifications of mercury toxicokinetics through sex hormones, the selenium supply in Austria, and the clinical relevance of a low selenium status.

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As with any procedure, there could be pain or other substantial risks involved. These concerns should be discussed with your health care provider prior to any treatment so that you have proper informed consent and understand that there are no guarantees to healing.

THE INFORMATION IN THIS WEBSITE IS OFFERED FOR GENERAL EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND DOES NOT IMPLY OR GIVE MEDICAL ADVICE. No Doctor/Patient relationship shall be deemed to have arisen simply by reading the information contained on these pages, and you should consult with your personal physician/care giver regarding your medical treatment before undergoing any sort of treatment or therapy.

Published on 11-17-2008
Authors: Claudia Gundackera, , , Gunter Komarnickib, Bettina Zodlc, Christian Forstera, Ernst Schusterb and Karl Wittmanna
Source: Science of The Total Environment Volume 372, Issue 1, 15 December 2006, Pages 76-86