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Environ Health Perspect. 2011 Feb;119(2):245-51. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1002609. Epub 2010 Oct 27.

Fish consumption and mercury exposure among Louisiana recreational anglers.

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  • 1Department of Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.



Methylmercury (MeHg) exposure assessments among average fish consumers in the United States may underestimate exposures among U.S. subpopulations with high intakes of regionally specific fish.


We examined relationships among fish consumption, estimated mercury (Hg) intake, and measured Hg exposure within one such potentially highly exposed group, recreational anglers in the state of Louisiana, USA.


We surveyed 534 anglers in 2006 using interviews at boat launches and fishing tournaments combined with an Internet-based survey method. Hair samples from 402 of these anglers were collected and analyzed for total Hg. Questionnaires provided information on species-specific fish consumption during the 3 months before the survey.


Anglers' median hair Hg concentration was 0.81 µg/g (n = 398; range, 0.02-10.7 µg/g); 40% of participants had levels >1 µg/g, which approximately corresponds to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's reference dose. Fish consumption and Hg intake were significantly positively associated with hair Hg. Participants reported consuming nearly 80 different fish types, many of which are specific to the region. Unlike the general U.S. population, which acquires most of its Hg from commercial seafood sources, approximately 64% of participants' fish meals and 74% of their estimated Hg intake came from recreationally caught seafood.


Study participants had relatively elevated hair Hg concentrations and reported consumption of a wide variety of fish, particularly locally caught fish. This group represents a highly exposed subpopulation with an exposure profile that differs from fish consumers in other regions of the United States, suggesting a need for more regionally specific exposure estimates and public health advisories.

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