All samples were analyzed by direct Hg analysis using a DMA80-evo® instrument (MLS Mikrowellen-Labor-Systeme GmbH, Leutkirch, Germany). Hg was detected by atomic absorption at 253.5 nm. The quantification was based on an external calibration. Before every analysis series, the sample boats were preconditioned to avoid interference by residual Hg. For venous blood, 100 µl blood were directly pipetted into the sample boats and analyzed. Each venous blood sample was at least analyzed in triplicate. For DBS, three completely filled circles were punched out using a pre-cleaned 0.5-inch stainless steel paper puncher. The punched circles, which contained approximately 60 µl (specification by the manufacturer, 55 µl for stability experiments) blood, were individually placed directly into the sample boat of the instrument and analyzed to yield three individual values per participant. One blank per participant was prepared in the same manner using an empty circle from the same DBS card. The limits of detection (LOD) were 0.02 µg/l for venous blood and 0.14 µg/l for DBS samples, respectively (for detailed information, see Table S1). The limits of quantitation (LOQ) were 0.04 µg/l for venous blood and 0.28 µg/l for DBS samples, respectively. For quality assurance, an aqueous Hg standard solution (10 µg/l) and certified reference material for blood (Hg concentration: 2.9 µg/l) were analyzed daily prior to the analysis of the samples. Day-to-day variation of the Hg standard and certified reference material was less than 10%.

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