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I'm interested in speciation analysis. Hearing of fatal accidents with organic mercury compounds made me wonder about the risks for the analytical chemist trying to determine Hg species in foodstuff. Probably the most prominent accident is the death of Karen Wetterhahn who used dimethylmercury for NMR experiments. A few drops proved fatal. I'm assuming it was pure dimethylmercury she was using? Or is it usually diluted?

The concentration range in LC-ICP-MS analysis for quantificaton of MeHg in foodstuff ranges up to about 10 ppb from what I have seen so far. I'd expect stock solutions for preparing the calibration wouldn't exceed 1 g/L. So the consequences of spilling some drops of a stock solution are likely less severe in this case. Especially taking into account that today people are aware of how fast dimethylmercury diffuses through the usual gloves. Which is something I believe Wetterhahn wasn't aware of. Diluted or not, the handling still requires laminated gloves (silver shield), right?

I don't intend to work with MeHg, but I know someone who might in the context of analyzing foodstuff. It would be a comfort to know that the phrase "one drop can kill" applies to the handling of the pure chemical I guess.

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    $\begingroup$ I´m sure your friend is not the first who wants to quantify that stuff. How about some literature research? The fatal accident of KW has been extensively studied and the results published. And if there should be a need to calibrate with a sample of the actual substance, I´m sure you can buy a standard containing just a few ppb´s. $\endgroup$ – Karl Jan 22 '20 at 19:29
  • $\begingroup$ It's not like I don't do this already but I've yet to stumble upon a paper that describes what kind of safety measures were applied or what risks are involved with the chemicals used. Actually thinking about it some kind of ISO standard would possibly more helpful in this regard. Will have to look if there is any for Hg speciation. Or maybe a standard operating procedure. $\endgroup$ – Deglupta Jan 22 '20 at 19:38
  • $\begingroup$ osha.gov/dts/hib/hib_data/hib19980309.html and links provided therein. $\endgroup$ – Karl Jan 22 '20 at 19:56

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