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Total mercury levels in hair, toenail, and urine among women free from occupational exposure and their relations to renal tubular function

To investigate the relations among total mercury levels in hair, toenail, and urine, together with potential effects of methylmercury intake on renal tubular function, we determined their levels, and urinary N-acetyl-β-d-glucosaminidase activity (NAG) and α1-microglobulin (AMG) in 59 women free from occupational exposures, and estimated daily mercury intakes from fish and other seafood using a food frequency questionnaire. Mercury levels (mean±SD) in the women were in hair, in toenail, and creatinine in urine; and, there were positive correlations among them (P<0.001). The daily mercury intake of was significantly correlated with total mercury levels in hair, toenail, and urine (r=0.551, 0.537, and 0.604, P<0.001). Among the women, the NAG and AMG were positively correlated with both the daily mercury intake and mercury levels in hair, toenail, and urine (P<0.01); and, these relations were almost similar when using multiple regression analysis to adjust for possible confounders such as urinary cadmium ( creatinine) and smoking status. In conclusion, mercury resulting from fish consumption can explain total mercury levels in hair, toenail, and urine to some degree (about 30%), partly through the degradation into the inorganic form, and it may confound the renal tubular effect of other nephrotoxic agents. Also, the following equation may be applicable to the population neither with dental amalgam fillings nor with occupational exposures: [hair mercury (μg/g)]=2.44×[toenail mercury (μg/g)].