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J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2005 Jan 22;68(2):129-40.

Impact of consumption of freshwater fish on mercury levels in hair, blood, urine, and alveolar air.

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Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Sahlgrenska Academy and University Hospital, Göteborg, Sweden.


Human exposure to methylmercury occurs mainly via consumption of fish. The aim of the study was to investigate the influence of freshwater fish consumption on mercury levels in hair, blood, urine, and end-exhaled air. Twenty subjects without dental amalgam fillings were recruited from sport-fishing societies. They ranged in age from 61 to 87 yr. Six individuals ate freshwater fish at least once a week and were categorized as high consumers. Eight individuals were classified as medium consumers and ate freshwater fish at least once a month but less than once a week. Six individuals were categorized as low consumers and had not eaten freshwater fish in the past 3 mo. Among the high consumers, median concentrations of mercury were 8.6 microg/L in blood, 2.4 microg/g in hair, 10 pg/L in end-exhaled air, and 1.1 microg/g creatinine in urine. The relationship between freshwater fish consumption and mercury was significant in all biological media. The high-consumption group had much higher mercury levels in blood (9-fold), hair (7-fold), alveolar air (3-fold), and urine (15-fold) than the low-consumption group. The latter finding may be explained by demethylation of methylmercury in the body. The ratio between mercury concentration in blood and hair was 1:270. This implies that the typical blood-hair ratio of 1:250, specified by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1990, is valid also for exposure to low amounts of methylmercury.

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