Send to

Choose Destination
Environ Health Perspect. 2009 Jan;117(1):47-53. doi: 10.1289/ehp.11674. Epub 2008 Aug 25.

Adult women's blood mercury concentrations vary regionally in the United States: association with patterns of fish consumption (NHANES 1999-2004).

Author information

Office of Science Coordination and Policy, Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, USA.



The current, continuous National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) has included blood mercury (BHg) and fish/shellfish consumption since it began in 1999. NHANES 1999-2004 data form the basis for these analyses.


This study was designed to determine BHg distributions within U.S. Census regions and within coastal and noncoastal areas among women of childbearing age, their association with patterns of fish consumption, and changes from 1999 through 2004.


We performed univariate and bivariate analyses to determine the distribution of BHg and fish consumption in the population and to investigate differences by geography, race/ethnicity, and income. We used multivariate analysis (regression) to determine the strongest predictors of BHg among geography, demographic factors, and fish consumption.


Elevated BHg occurred more commonly among women of childbearing age living in coastal areas of the United States (approximately one in six women). Regionally, exposures differ across the United States: Northeast > South and West > Midwest. Asian women and women with higher income ate more fish and had higher BHg. Time-trend analyses identified reduced BHg and reduced intake of Hg in the upper percentiles without an overall reduction of fish consumption.


BHg is associated with income, ethnicity, residence (census region and coastal proximity). From 1999 through 2004, BHg decreased without a concomitant decrease in fish consumption. Data are consistent with a shift over this time period in fish species in women's diets.


NHANES; blood; coastal; fish; mercury; regional

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Atypon Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center