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Environ Int. 2013 Sep;59:63-72. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2013.05.005. Epub 2013 Jun 19.

Determination of toxic elements (mercury, cadmium, lead, tin and arsenic) in fish and shellfish samples. Risk assessment for the consumers.

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Department of Legal Medicine and Toxicology, School of Medicine, University of Granada, Spain.


Although fish intake has potential health benefits, the presence of metal contamination in seafood has raised public health concerns. In this study, levels of mercury, cadmium, lead, tin and arsenic have been determined in fresh, canned and frozen fish and shellfish products and compared with the maximum levels currently in force. In a further step, potential human health risks for the consumers were assessed. A total of 485 samples of the 43 most frequently consumed fish and shellfish species in Andalusia (Southern Spain) were analyzed for their toxic elements content. High mercury concentrations were found in some predatory species (blue shark, cat shark, swordfish and tuna), although they were below the regulatory maximum levels. In the case of cadmium, bivalve mollusks such as canned clams and mussels presented higher concentrations than fish, but almost none of the samples analyzed exceeded the maximum levels. Lead concentrations were almost negligible with the exception of frozen common sole, which showed median levels above the legal limit. Tin levels in canned products were far below the maximum regulatory limit, indicating that no significant tin was transferred from the can. Arsenic concentrations were higher in crustaceans such as fresh and frozen shrimps. The risk assessment performed indicated that fish and shellfish products were safe for the average consumer, although a potential risk cannot be dismissed for regular or excessive consumers of particular fish species, such as tuna, swordfish, blue shark and cat shark (for mercury) and common sole (for lead).


Environmental contamination; Fish; Heavy metals; Risk assessment; Shellfish; Toxic elements

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