A method for methylmercury and inorganic mercury in biological samples using high performance liquid chromatography-inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry

Tomohiro Narukawa (Corresponding Author), Takahiro Iwai, Koichi Chiba, Jörg Feldmann

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A new determination method was developed for the measurement of methylmercury (Me-Hg) and inorganic mercury (i-Hg) in biological samples using high-performance liquid chromatography–inductively coupled plasma–mass spectrometry (HPLC-ICP-MS) following alkaline extraction. Mercury species in biological samples were extracted with 10% (w/w) tetramethylammonium hydroxide (TMAH) solution at 80°C for 2 h. Methylmercury was completely separated from i-Hg by adamantyl type and octadecylsilyl type columns within 6 and 4 min using isocratic elution, respectively. The detection limits (3σ) of adamantyl and octadecylsilyl columns using the proposed system were 0.08 and 0.13 ng g−1 (as Hg), respectively. Inorganic Hg completely separates from Me-Hg without tailing. The proposed determination methods were applied to several biological certified reference materials (CRMs). The measurement results of Me-Hg obtained by the present method were in good agreement within the expanded uncertainties (k = 2) with the certified values. The analytical precision (n = 3) of Me-Hg was less than 2%, and the recoveries of Me-Hg and i-Hg were 101 ± 1 and 103 ± 3%, respectively. In addition, this method enables the determination of Me-Hg and i-Hg for 20 samples in 1 h.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1329-1334
Number of pages6
JournalAnalytical Sciences
Issue number11
Early online date17 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2018



  • mercury speciation
  • methylmercury
  • biological samples
  • risk assessment
  • alkaline extraction

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