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  • 1 University of Toronto Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry Canada
  • 2 Comision Chilena de Energia Nuclear Chile
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Mercury pollution in the industrial environment of Chile has been studied using hair as a monitor. Data from samples representing people living in the non-polluted and also from the polluted areas show that, hair is an effective and convenient indicator of environmental mercury pollution in Chile. A major source of mercury pollution and its transport is contaminated water. Hair is found to concentrate mercury from water to an extent of 80 to 500 fold increase in hair concentration. This absorption occurs in a contact time of 24 h and thus provides a means of treating mercury containing water to reduce the mercury to acceptable levels. The capacity of hair for this purpose is about 0.2% which means that, with a kilogram of hair /valued at less than 25 cents/ nearly 20.000 litres of contaminated water /at 0.1 ppm mercury/ can be treated. This is an inexpensive and convenient alternative to conventional ion-exchange processes which are generally very expensive, particularly for developing countries.