This study evaluates biomarkers of occupational mercury exposure among workers at a mercury recycling operation in Gorlovka, Ukraine. The 29 study participants were divided into three occupational categories for analysis: (1) those who worked in the mercury recycling operation (Group A, n = 8), (2) those who worked at the facility but not in the yard where the recycling was done (Group B, n = 14), and (3) those who did not work at the facility (Group C, n = 7). Urine, blood, hair, and nail samples were collected from the participants, and a questionnaire was administered to obtain data on age, gender, occupational history, smoking, alcohol consumption, fish consumption, tattoos, dental amalgams, home heating system, education, source of drinking water, and family employment in the former mercury mine/smelter located on the site of the recycling facility. Each factor was tested in a univariate regression with total mercury in urine, blood, hair, and nails. Median biomarker concentrations were 4.04 ??g/g-Cr (urine), 2.58 ??g/L (blood), 3.95 ??g/g (hair), and 1.16 ??g/g (nails). Occupational category was significantly correlated (p < 0.001) with both blood and urinary mercury concentrations but not with hair or nail mercury. Four individuals had urinary mercury concentrations in a range previously found to be associated with subtle neurological and subjective symptoms (e.g., fatigue, loss of appetite, irritability), and one worker had a urinary mercury concentration in a range associated with a high probability of neurological effects and proteinuria. Comparison of results by occupational category found that workers directly involved with the recycling operation had the highest blood and urinary mercury levels. Those who worked at the facility but were not directly involved with the recycling operation had higher levels than those who did not work at the facility. Copyright ?? 2008 JOEH, LLC.
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Biomarkers of mercury exposure at a mercury recycling facility in Ukraine