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Comparison of strontium isotope ratios in Mexican human hair and tap water as provenance indicators

NCJ Number
Forensic Science International Volume: 314 Dated: 2020
Date Published
September 2020

This study closes the large spatial gap of available 87Sr/86Sr ratios from North America in tap water and presents the first 87Sr/86Sr human tissue-based ratios from Mexico.


Deceased undocumented border crossers are some of the most difficult individuals to identify due to the inability to narrow down the region of origin and therefore to obtain family reference samples for DNA comparison. The isotopic compositions of various body tissues have been demonstrated to be useful biomarkers for tracking locations and movements to aid in the identification of human remains. In the current study, the 101 hair samples from 32 locations in Mexico ranged in 87Sr/86Sr ratios from 0.70424 to 0.71613 (ΔSrmax–min = 0.01189). Furthermore, 151 tap water samples from 51 locations ranged between 0.70404 to 0.71385 (ΔSrmax–min = 0.00981). Overall, small variations in the hair and tap water samples collected from individual locations were recorded (ΔSrmax–min = 0.00041 and 0.00034 respectively). Although Mexico is one of the largest bottled water consumers in the world, the 87Sr/86Sr ratios of human hair and tap water correlated strongly (R2 = 0.87 for location averages and R2 = 0.80 when using individual data points). These data represent a valuable resource for identifying the provenance of human remains. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: September 1, 2020