Oral and inhalation bioaccessibility of mercury in contaminated soils and potential health risk to the kidneys and neurodevelopment of children in Taiwan

Ying Lin Wang, Ming Chien Mark Tsou, Li Chi Lai, Zeng Yei Hseu, Hsing Cheng Hsi, Ling Chu Chien

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Health risk assessments of exposure to mercury (Hg) from soils via ingestion and inhalation are indispensable for Taiwanese people living in the vicinity of Hg-contaminated sites. In this study, anthropogenic soils were collected from various polluted sources in Taiwan. In vitro oral and inhalation bioaccessible fractions of Hg were analyzed to avoid from overestimating the exposure risk. Discrepancies in oral and inhalation bioaccessible levels of Hg in soils were found using different in vitro assays with different pH levels and chemical compositions. The freshly contaminated soil (soil S7) polluted by chlor-alkali production activity sampled before the site was remediated had the highest total Hg concentration of 1346 mg/kg, with the highest oral bioaccessibility of 26.2% as analyzed by SW-846 Method 1340 and inhalation bioaccessibility of 30.5% as analyzed by modified Gamble's solution. The lesser extent of aging of Hg in soil S7 increased the Hg availability for humans, which was also found based on results of a sequential extraction procedure. Results of the hazard quotient showed that soil ingestion was the main pathway causing non-carcinogenic risks for children and adults. Children were also exposed to higher risks than were adults due to higher frequencies of hand-to-mouth behaviors and lower body weights. Furthermore, hazard index results adjusted for oral and inhalation bioaccessible Hg were lower than those obtained based on the total Hg content; however, an unacceptable value of the non-carcinogenic risk (> 1) for children living near soil S7 was still observed. This study suggests that children living near sites polluted for a short period of time may suffer potential renal effects regardless of the bioaccessibility. Our findings provide suggestions for decision makers on setting new strategies for managing risks of Hg-contaminated soils in Taiwan. Graphical abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6267-6286
Number of pages20
JournalEnvironmental Geochemistry and Health
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023


  • Bioaccessibility
  • Children
  • Health risk assessment
  • Mercury exposure
  • Soil

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


Dive into the research topics of 'Oral and inhalation bioaccessibility of mercury in contaminated soils and potential health risk to the kidneys and neurodevelopment of children in Taiwan'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this