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Environ Res. 2011 Nov;111(8):1265-70. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2011.09.001. Epub 2011 Oct 1.

Impact of mercury exposure on blood pressure and cardiac autonomic activity among Cree adults (James Bay, Quebec, Canada).

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Axe Santé des Populations et Environnement, Centre de Recherche du CHUQ, Quebec (QC), Canada.


Aboriginal populations from Quebec (Canada) are exposed to higher mercury levels than southern regions since these populations consume high quantities of fish. Epidemiological evidence suggests a detrimental impact of mercury on cardiovascular risk factors such as heart rate variability (HRV) and blood pressure (BP). The objective of this study was to assess the impact of mercury exposure on BP, resting heart rate (HR) and HRV among Cree adults. Data were collected among 791 adults≥18 years old living in seven communities of the James Bay. Blood mercury and hair levels were used as biomarkers of recent and long-term exposure. BP was measured through a standardised protocol while HRV was derived from a 2-h Holter monitoring assessment. The relationship between mercury and the outcomes was studied using ANOVA and ANCOVA analysis. Geometric mean of blood mercury and hair mercury concentration was 17.0 nmol/L (95%CI: 6.1-44.0) and 2.36 nmol/g (95%CI: 2.09-2.65); respectively. After adjusting for confounders, blood mercury was associated with HRV parameters such as LF (β=0.21, P=0.0002), HF (β=0.15, P=0.004) and LF/HF (β=0.06, P=0.003). Similar associations were observed with hair mercury. In contrast, no significant association was observed between blood mercury or hair mercury and BP after adjusting for confounders. In conclusion, mercury exposure seems to affect HRV among Cree adults even after considering fish nutrients (n-3 fatty acids and selenium) and other contaminants (lead and polychlorinated biphenyls) that are also present in the traditional diet of this population.

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