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

  • Alejandra Manjarres-Suarez
  • Jesus Olivero-VerbelEmail author
Research Article


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.


Blood cell lines Biomarker Heavy metal Mercury exposure Fish consumption Human health 



The authors are grateful to Tierrabomba Island Community Councils, the School Community of Berrugas (San Onofre), Doctor Dager Berrio, Neda Alvarez, and Javier Galvis.

Funding information

This study was funded by Colciencias-University of Cartagena (Grant 110777757883, 778/2017) and The National Program for Doctoral Formation (Colciencias, 727-2015).

Compliance with ethical standards

This research was performed in compliance with international and national standards of bioethics studies in humans, particularly, the Declaration of Helsinki. Ethical approval was obtained from the Ethics Committee of the University of Cartagena (Act No. 97 of June 02, 2017). Informed consent and written assent were obtained after explaining the study in full, and those who volunteered to participate were included.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11356_2020_7738_MOESM1_ESM.docx (75 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 74.5 kb)


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Environmental and Computational Chemistry Group, School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Zaragocilla CampusUniversity of CartagenaCartagenaColombia

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