Mercury in Food Items From the Idrija Mercury Mine Area

Environ Res. 2013 Aug;125:61-8. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2013.02.008. Epub 2013 May 17.


As a consequence of over 500 years of mining and smelting activities (1490-1995), and of its natural geological occurrence, the soil in the Idrija region is highly contaminated with Hg. In order to assess the present situation regarding the Hg levels in local food samples, concentrations of total mercury (THg) and monomethyl mercury (MeHg) were determined in selected vegetables, mushrooms and fish from the Idrija Hg mine area. Hg levels in the foodstuffs analysed were not very high but were elevated compared to the levels in food from non-contaminated areas. The study showed that THg accumulates in mushrooms (X=5680ng/g dry weight, Min=346ng/g dry weight, Max=17,100 dry weight) and chicory (X=1950ng/g dry weight, Min=86ng/g dry weight, Max=17,100ng/g dry weight). In addition, Se and Cd concentrations were determined by ICP-MS in those vegetable and mushroom species in which the highest Hg levels were found. The levels of Cd and Se were below the threshold levels. Based on data from previous studies, we can conclude that the levels of Hg in food have not diminished significantly during the past 15 years after closure of the Hg mine. Special attention should be given to vegetables such as chicory, representing a local seasonal vegetable eaten frequently.

Keywords: CRM; Exposure assessment; IHg; LOD; LOQ; Max; MeHg; Med; Mercury; Mercury contaminated area; Min; Monomethylmercury; PDI; PTWI; RM; STD; THg; X; certified reference material; inorganic mercury; limit of detection; limit of quantification; maximum; mean; median; minimum; monomethylmercury; probable daily intake; provisional tolerable weekly intake; reference material; standard deviation; total mercury.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agaricales / chemistry*
  • Animals
  • Cadmium / analysis
  • Chicory / chemistry*
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods
  • Environmental Monitoring / statistics & numerical data*
  • Fishes / metabolism*
  • Food Contamination / analysis*
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Mercury / analysis*
  • Methylmercury Compounds / analysis*
  • Mining*
  • Selenium / analysis
  • Slovenia
  • Soil / analysis


  • Methylmercury Compounds
  • Soil
  • Cadmium
  • Mercury
  • Selenium