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Intra-individual and Inter-individual Variation in Mercury Concentrations in Modern Human Skeletons: Impact of Dental Amalgam

NCJ Number
Date Published
August 2022

This thesis provides a highly precise and accurate mercury concentration analytical method, targeted to human bone samples.


The author of this thesis presents a highly precise, accurate mercury (Hg) concentration analytical method, targeted to human bone samples. The sample preparation protocol allows for mercury concentration measurement as well as that of trace element concentrations, and can be additionally prepared for analysis of strontium and lead isotopes, based on 10mgs of sample powder. The purpose of this project was to facilitate the study of mercury in anthropological, forensic, and medical studies. The author’s method requires significantly lower sample amounts than pre-existing methods due to its lower limit of detection compared to currently available mercury analyzers and methods; it is therefore potentially useful for studies that have a limited amount of samples for destructive analysis. The author used the method developed in the project to analyze the mercury concentration distribution in 35 modern skeletal collections, with 18 skeletal elements (bones) per donor, to evaluate the intra-individual and inter-individual variation in mercury concentration. Geological differences in decomposition sites did not statistically affect the mercury concentration in donors’ skeletons, however the presence of dental amalgam did significantly affect both the inter-individual and the intra-individual mercury concentration in donors’ skeletal samples.

Date Published: August 1, 2022