Trace Element Analysis of Human Hair

  • K. Dörner
Part of the Proceedings in Life Sciences book series (LIFE SCIENCES)


Trace element analysis of hair has met a considerable interest in nutritional sciences, in clinical and in forensic medicine. 25 years ago, Swedish and British scientists attracted attention by the finding of high arsenic concentrations in consecutive hair sections of emperor Napoleon’s hair (Smith et al. 1962). They suspected that Napoleon died from a chronic arsenic intoxication induced over a period of at least 4 months. Another startling example of hair analyses in environmental history is derived from a bird, from the goshawk which lives on small seed eating birds (Thomson 1977). Johnels and Westermark determined the mercury content of feathers over a period of one hundred years back to 1860’s mainly based on museum exhibits of female goshawks. They found a constant level from the year 1863 to 1946 of about 2.2 µg/g. Up to 1966 a dramatical increase was found with a mean value of 29 µg/g. This increase was explained by the use of methylmercury compounds as fungicides for seeds in the period from 1940 to 1966. When the application of methylmercury was prohibited in 1966 the mercury contents of the feathers quickly decreased to the previous level.


Cystic Fibrosis Hair Sample Hair Analysis Keshan Disease Menkes Disease 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. Dörner
    • 1
  1. 1.University Children’s HospitalKiel 1Germany

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