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Environ Health Perspect. 2004 Aug;112(11):1165-71.

Hair mercury levels in U.S. children and women of childbearing age: reference range data from NHANES 1999-2000.

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  • 1National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3311 Toledo Boulevard, Rm. 4335, Hyattsville, MD, USA.


Exposure to methyl mercury, a risk factor for neurodevelopmental toxicity, was assessed in U.S. children 1-5 years of age (n = 838) and women 16-49 years of age (n = 1,726) using hair mercury analysis during the 1999-2000 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The data are nationally representative and are based on analysis of cross-sectional data for the noninstitutionalized, U.S. household population. The survey consisted of interviews conducted in participants' homes and standardized health examinations conducted in mobile examination centers. Distributions of total hair mercury levels expressed as micrograms per gram hair Hg and the association of hair Hg levels with sociodemographic characteristics and fish consumption are reported. Geometric mean (standard error of the geometric mean) hair mercury was 0.12 microg/g (0.01 microg/g) in children, and 0.20 microg/g (0.02 microg/g) in women. Among frequent fish consumers, geometric mean hair mercury levels were 3-fold higher for women (0.38 vs. 0.11 micro g/g) and 2-fold higher for children (0.16 vs. 0.08 microg/g) compared with nonconsumers. The NHANES 1999-2000 data provide population-based data on hair mercury concentrations for women and children in the United States. Hair mercury levels were associated with age and fish consumption frequency.

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