Genotoxic damage among artisanal and small-scale mining workers exposed to mercury

Jaime Alonso Rosales-Rimache, Nancy Elizabeth Malca, Jhonatan J. Alarcón, Manuel Chávez, Marco Antonio Gonzáles

Research output: Contribution to journalOriginal Articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Objectives. To determine the genotoxic damage among artisanal and small-scale mining workers exposed to mercury. Materials and methods. Observational cross-sectional study which evaluated mercury-exposed workers (n=83), whose cells were collected by mouth swab for further staining, microscopic observance, micronuclei count, and other nuclear alterations. 24-hour urine was also collected for the determination of inorganic mercury. Results. 68.7% of participants were male, the mean age being 43 ± 12,4 years (range: 16-76). The average time of occupational exposure to mercury was 12,1 ± 6,7 years, and the contact with mercury was 4,1 ± 3,6 kg per person per day. 93% of participants failed to wear personal protection gear while handling mercury. Results of biological monitoring showed that 17% of participants had concentrations of mercury in urine higher than 2,5 μg/L, this value being the detection limit of the measurement technique used. Results of the genotoxic evaluation evidenced that 15% of people with labor exposure to mercury presented micronuclei in mouth epithelial cells, and other indicators of nuclear alteration such as nucleoplasmic bridges, gemmation and binucleation were found, which are also considered genotoxic events associated to the exposure of physical or chemical risk agents. Conclusions. The finding of micronuclei in mouth epithelial cells reflects genotoxic damage associated to the labor exposure of mercury used in artisanal and small-scale mining activities.

Translated title of the contributionDaño genotóxico en trabajadores de minería artesanal expuestos al mercurio
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)595-600
Number of pages6
JournalRevista Peruana de Medicina Experimental y Salud Publica
Issue number4
StateIndexed - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Genotoxicity
  • Mercury
  • Micronucleus tests
  • Mining
  • Occupational exposure


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