Measurement of methyl mercury (I) and mercury (II) in fish tissues and sediments by HPLC-ICPMS and HPLC-HGAAS

Rajani Jagtap, Frank Krikowa, William Maher*, Simon Foster, Michael Ellwood

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    54 Citations (Scopus)


    A procedure for the extraction and determination of methyl mercury and mercury (II) in fish muscle tissues and sediment samples is presented. The procedure involves extraction with 5% (v/v) 2-mercaptoethanol, separation and determination of mercury species by HPLC-ICPMS using a Perkin-Elmer 3 μm C8 (33 mm × 3 mm) column and a mobile phase 3 containing 0.5% (v/v) 2-mercaptoethanol and 5% (v/v) CH3OH (pH 5.5) at a flow rate 1.5 ml min-1 and a temperature of 25 °C. Calibration curves for methyl mercury (I) and mercury (II) standards were linear in the range of 0-100 μg l-1 (r2 = 0.9990 and r2 = 0.9995 respectively). The lowest measurable mercury was 0.4 μg l-1 which corresponds to 0.01 μg g-1 in fish tissues and sediments. Methyl mercury concentrations measured in biological certified reference materials, NRCC DORM - 2 Dogfish muscle (4.4 ± 0.8 μg g-1), NRCC Dolt - 3 Dogfish liver (1.55 ± 0.09 μg g-1), NIST RM 50 Albacore Tuna (0.89 ± 0.08 μg g-1) and IRMM IMEP-20 Tuna fish (3.6 ± 0.6 μg g-1) were in agreement with the certified value (4.47 ± 0.32 μg g-1, 1.59 ± 0.12 μg g-1, 0.87 ± 0.03 μg g-1, 4.24 ± 0.27 μg g-1 respectively). For the sediment reference material ERM CC 580, a methyl mercury concentration of 0.070 ± 0.002 μg g-1 was measured which corresponds to an extraction efficiency of 92 ± 3% of certified values (0.076 ± 0.04 μg g-1) but within the range of published values (0.040-0.084 μg g-1; mean ± s.d.: 0.073 ± 0.05 μg g-1, n = 40) for this material. The extraction procedure for the fish tissues was also compared against an enzymatic extraction using Protease type XIV that has been previously published and similar results were obtained. The use of HPLC-HGAAS with a Phenomenox 5 μm Luna C18 (250 mm × 4.6 mm) column and a mobile phase containing 0.06 mol l-1 ammonium acetate (Merck Pty Limited, Australia) in 5% (v/v) methanol and 0.1% (w/v) l-cysteine at 25 °C was evaluated as a complementary alternative to HPLC-ICPMS for the measurement of mercury species in fish tissues. The lowest measurable mercury concentration was 2 μg l-1 and this corresponds to 0.1 μg g-1 in fish tissues. Analysis of enzymatic extracts analysed by HPLC-HGAAS and HPLC-ICPMS gave equivalent results.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)49-55
    Number of pages7
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2011


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