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Environ Int. 2013 Sep;59:431-41. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2013.07.003. Epub 2013 Aug 6.

Probabilistic mercury multimedia exposure assessment in small children and risk assessment.

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  • 1LERCCo (Laboratoire d'Evaluation du Risque Chimique pour le Consommateur), Université de Bretagne Occidentale, 6 avenue Victor Le Gorgeu, CS 93837, 29238 Brest, France. typhaine.morisset@univ-brest.fr



Emissions of mercury in the environment have been decreasing for several years. However, mercury species are still found in different media (food, water, air and breast-milk). Due to mercury toxicity and typical behaviour in children, we have conducted a mercury exposure assessment in French babies, and small children aged 0 to 36months.


Consumption and mercury concentration data were chosen for the exposure assessment. The Monte Carlo technique has been used to calculate the weekly exposure dose in order to integrate inter-individual variability and parameter uncertainty. Exposure values have been compared to toxicological reference values for health risk assessment.


Inorganic mercury median exposure levels ranged from 0.160 to 1.649μg/kg of body weight per week (95th percentile (P95): 0.298-2.027µg/kg bw/week); elemental mercury median exposure level in children was 0.11ng/kg bw/week (P95: 28ng/kg bw/week); and methylmercury median exposure level ranged from 0.247 to 0.273µg/kg bw/week (P95: 0.425-0.463µg/kg bw/week). Only elemental mercury by inhalation route (indoor air) and methylmercury by ingestion (fish and breast-milk) seem to lead to a health risk in small children.


These results confirm the importance of assessing total mercury concentration in media like breast-milk, indoor air and dust and methylmercury level in food, other than fish and seafood. In this way, informed monitoring plan and risk assessment in an at-risk sub-population can be set.

© 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Mercury; Multimedia; Probabilistic exposure assessment; Small children

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