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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Direct determination of methylmercury and inorganic mercury in biological materials by solid sampling-electrothermal vaporization-inductively coupled plasma-isotope dilution-mass spectrometry.

This paper reports on the use of solid sampling-electrothermal vaporization-inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (SS-EIV-ICPMS) for the direct and simultaneous determination of methylmercury and inorganic mercury in biological materials. The main advantage of this fast and sensitive method is that no sample preparation is required. In this way, the sample throughput can be considerably increased, problems of contamination and analyte losses are kept to a minimum and, even more important, the original chemical form of the different analyte species in the solid samples is preserved. To achieve this goal, a solid sample is inserted into a graphite furnace of the boat-in-tube type and is subsequently submitted to an appropriate temperature program, leading to the separate vaporization of methylmercury and inorganic mercury, which are transported into the ICP by means of an argon carrier gas. The separation was accomplished within 75 s. For the quantification of the two peaks, species-unspecific isotope dilution was used. For this purpose, a stable flow of argon loaded with gaseous Hg isotopically enriched in 200Hg was generated using a permeation tube that was constructed in-house. Its emission rate was determined by collecting the mercury released during a given time interval on a gold-coated silica absorber, after which the amount collected was released by heating of the absorber and determined by cold vapor atomic absorption spectrometry (CVAAS) and cold vapor atomic fluorescence spectrometry (CVAFS). A reference material from the Canadian National Research Council (NRC) (TORT-2) was used to assess the accuracy of the method. For the application of the method to samples with diverse mercury contents, the spike/sample ratio can be optimized by varying the emission rate of the permeation tube simply by adapting its temperature. To prove the feasibility of this approach, two reference materials ( BCR 463 and DORM-2) with a methylmercury content more than 10 times higher than that of TORT-2 were also analyzed. The detection limits obtained for 1 mg of sample (2 ng g(-1) and 6 ng g(-1) for methylmercury and inorganic mercury, respectively) were found to be sufficiently low for this kind of application and are competitive when compared to other techniques.[1]


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