Hematological parameters and hair mercury levels in adolescents from the Colombian Caribbean

Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2020 Apr;27(12):14216-14227. doi: 10.1007/s11356-020-07738-z. Epub 2020 Feb 10.


Mercury (Hg) is one of the heavy metals of concern for fish-eating populations. This pollutant can be released from many sources and generates diverse toxic effects in humans. The aim of this study was to evaluate hematological parameters and their relationship with total Hg (T-Hg) levels in the hair of adolescents from Tierrabomba, an island close to an industrialized area, and also from San Onofre, a reference site. Blood and hair samples were collected from 194 individuals, aged 11-18 years old, as well as sociodemographic and dietary information. The hematological profile showed marked differences between the two sites. Mean values for almost all variables of the red blood cell line, as well as lymphocyte percentage (LYM%) and monocyte percentage (MID%), were greater in Tierrabomba. In contrast, red cell distribution width (RDW), white blood cells (WBC), granulocyte percentage (GRA%), and plateletcrit (PTC) were higher at the reference site. Total Hg mean in Tierrabomba was 1.10 ± 0.07 μg/g, while at San Onofre, it was 1.87 ± 0.11 μg/g. In both places, more than 49% of participants had Hg concentrations over the limit threshold (1 μg/g). Overall mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration (MCHC) and T-Hg showed a negative correlation (r = - 0.162, p = 0.024). However, positive associations were observed between T-Hg and MID% for Tierrabomba (r = 0.193, p = 0.041), and between T-Hg and mixed cells (MID) for the reference site (r = 0.223, p = 0.044). A significant relationship was found for fish consumption frequency and T-Hg levels (r = 0.360, p < 0.001). These results indicate blood parameters may be affected by Hg even at low-level exposure.

Keywords: Biomarker; Blood cell lines; Fish consumption; Heavy metal; Human health; Mercury exposure.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Animals
  • Caribbean Region
  • Child
  • Colombia
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Fishes
  • Food Contamination / analysis
  • Hair / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Mercury / analysis*


  • Mercury