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J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2008;71(15):1019-31. doi: 10.1080/01932690801934612.

Mercury exposure from fish consumption within the Japanese and Korean communities.

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Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Services, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA.


Public health guidance pertaining to fish consumption requires that we be cognizant of the health concerns associated with eating contaminated fish and the nutritional benefits obtained from fish consumption. In doing so, a need exists for an improved understanding of the extent of contamination within various fish species consumed by populations of concern and the extent of exposure to contamination by these populations. As part of the Arsenic Mercury Intake Biometric Study involving the Japanese and Korean communities, it was possible to obtain fish intake data, determine mercury (Hg) fish tissue concentrations for various species consumed, and examine hair for Hg levels of study participants. This longitudinal study (n = 214) included 106 Japanese and 108 Korean women of childbearing age. Hair Hg levels for the two populations and weight-normalized, species-specific, individual-consumption pattern data that estimated Hg intake levels were compared with published National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data. Sensitivity analyses and population-specific probabilistic assessments of exposure were conducted. The estimated Hg intake levels for the Japanese (0.09 microg/kg/d) and Koreans (0.05 microg/kg/d) were above the NHANES estimates (0.02 microg/kg/d), as were the hair Hg levels (1.23, 0.61, 0.2 ppm, respectively). Results indicate that (1) there are significant differences between the fish-species-consumption behavior of these two populations; (2) even when fish-consumption rates are equal between two populations, Hg intakes between them can vary significantly; and (3) these population and Hg intake differences present public health challenges when attempting to provide fish consumption guidance.

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