Environmental Geochemistry and Health

, Volume 37, Issue 2, pp 263–272 | Cite as

Speciation and bioaccessibility of mercury in adobe bricks and dirt floors in Huancavelica, Peru

  • Nicole Hagan
  • Nicholas Robins
  • Ruben Dario Espinoza Gonzales
  • Heileen Hsu-Kim
Original Paper


Huancavelica, Peru, a historic cinnabar refining site, is one of the most mercury (Hg)-contaminated urban areas in the world. Exposure is amplified because residents build their adobe brick homes from contaminated soil. The objectives of this study were to compare two Hg-leaching procedures, and their application as risk-assessment screening tools in Hg-contaminated adobe brick homes in Huancavelica. The purpose was to evaluate potential health implications, particularly for children, after ingestion of Hg-contaminated particles. Hg was measured in adobe brick and dirt floor samples from 60 households by total Hg extraction, simulated gastric fluid (GF) extraction, and sequential selective extraction (SSE), which provides more detailed data but is resource-intensive. Most of the Hg present in samples was relatively insoluble, although in some households soluble Hg species were present at concentrations that may be of concern after ingestion. A strong correlation was identified between results from simulated GF extraction of adobe bricks and dirt floors and the more soluble fractions of Hg from SSE. Simulated GF extraction data were combined with ingestion and body mass characteristics for small children to compare potential risk of ingestion of Hg-contaminated soil with current health standards. Simulated GF extraction can be used as a risk assessment screening tool for effective allocation of time and resources to households that have measurable concentrations of bioaccessible Hg. Combining simulated GF extraction data with health standards enables intervention strategies targeted at households with the greatest potential health threat from ingestion of Hg-contaminated particles.


Adobe Bioaccessibility Ingestion Mercury Peru Soil Speciation 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicole Hagan
    • 1
  • Nicholas Robins
    • 2
  • Ruben Dario Espinoza Gonzales
    • 3
  • Heileen Hsu-Kim
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Environmental Sciences and EngineeringThe University of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  2. 2.Department of HistoryNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA
  3. 3.Environmental Health CouncilHuancavelicaPeru
  4. 4.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringDuke UniversityDurhamUSA

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