Publication Details (including relevant citation information):
IM Kempson, D Henry, J Francis, Characterising arsenic in preserved hair for assessing exposure potential and discriminating poisoning, J of Synchrotron Radiation, 16,422-427, 2009.
Advanced analytical techniques have been used to characterize arsenic in taxidermy specimens. Arsenic was examined to aid in discriminating its use as a preservative from that incorporated by ingestion and hence indicate poisoning (in the case of historical figures). The results are relevant to museum curators, occupational and environmental exposure concerns, toxicological and anthropological investigations. Hair samples were obtained from six taxidermy specimens preserved with arsenic in the late 1800s and early 1900s to investigate the arsenic incorporation. The presence of arsenic poses a potential hazard in museum and private collections. For one sample, arsenic was confirmed to be present on the hair with time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry and then measured with neutron activation analysis to comprise 176 mg g-1. The hair cross section was analysed with synchrotron micro-X-ray fluorescence to investigate the transverse distribution of topically applied arsenic. It was found that the arsenic had significantly penetrated all hair samples. Association with melanin clusters and the medulla was observed. Lead and mercury were also identified in one sample. X-ray absorption near-edge spectroscopy of the As Kedge indicated that an arsenate species predominantly existed in all samples; however, analysis was hindered by very rapid photoreduction of the arsenic. It would be difficult to discriminate arsenic consumption from topically applied arsenic based on the physical transverse distribution. Longitudinal distributions and chemical speciation may still allow differentiation.
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