Regular articles

Estimation of bioaccessibility and potential human health risk of mercury in Chinese patent medicines

Lihong Liu , Yu Zhang , Zhaojun Yun , Bin He , Guibin Jiang


Received July 31, 2015,Revised October 19, 2015, Accepted October 21, 2015, Available online December 23, 2015

Volume 28,2016,Pages 37-44

Mercury (Hg), mainly in cinnabar species, has been used in medicine for thousands of years in China, and worldwide concern has been raised on its toxicity. In this work, the amount of bioaccessible mercury in 16 Chinese patent medicines (CPMs) was measured by using an in vitro simulated digestion system, consisting of simulated gastric and intestinal fluid, to investigate the bioavailability of mercury in CPMs and evaluate its potential risk to human health. Total mercury and mercury in the gastrointestinal extracts were measured by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). The levels of total Hg in 16 CPMs ranged from not detected to 11.89 mg/g, with a mean value of 1.13 mg/g, while the extractable Hg ranged from not detected to 4.37 μg/g, with a mean value of 0.42 μg/g. Mercury bioaccessibility varied significantly in the investigated CPMs, depending on the ingredient. Compared to the CPMs without cinnabar (2.5%–30.9%), the percentage of mercury in the gastrointestinal supernatants for CPMs with cinnabar was quite a bit lower (0.037%). By comparing with the Food and Agricultural Organization/World Health Organization Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (FAO/WHO) safety guideline, the average daily intake dose (ADD) of Hg in the medicines was then calculated to access the risk of mercury to human health from taking CPMs.

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