This proof-of-principle study was conducted at the Institute and Clinic for Occupational, Social and Environmental Medicine, LMU University Hospital Munich. The study was carried out in accordance with the Code of Ethics of the Declaration of Helsinki for experiments involving human subjects and reviewed and approved by the ethics committee of the Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich (20–091). Participants had to be at least 18 years old and no individual restrictions for venous and capillary blood sampling. In total, 53 participants were randomly recruited at the Institute and Clinic of Occupational, Social and Environmental medicine at the LMU University Hospital Munich in June and July 2020. Prior to the sampling, each participant was informed about the study and signed an informed consent form. Each participant was asked to fill out a questionnaire about potential Hg exposure (e.g., fish consumption and dental amalgam).

Venous blood samples from all participants were collected into 7 ml Lithium-Heparin-coated tubes for trace metal analyses (Sarstedt®) and stored at − 20 °C until analysis. For DBS sampling, the same participant was asked to wash his hands thoroughly to prevent contamination during the sampling. Afterwards, one finger was disinfected and pricked with a sterile disposable lancet. The first drop of blood was discarded before filling three spots of one DBS card with capillary blood. If the blood flow stopped before the circled area of three spots was completely filled, another finger was punctured with the consent of the participant. The DBS samples were dried for 2 h at room temperature. To test the influence of storage on real samples, some DBS samples (n = 18) were analyzed immediately after drying. The remaining samples (n = 32) were stored for 1 week at room temperature in a pre-cleaned glass tube as described above.

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