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Can J Public Health. 2013 Mar 7;104(3):e246-51.

Blood total mercury concentrations in the Canadian population: Canadian Health Measures Survey cycle 1, 2007-2009.

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Chemicals Surveillance Bureau, Health Canada, Ottawa, ON, Canada.



We present total mercury (THg) in blood of Canadians 6-79 years of age from the first to-date nationally-representative survey, the Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS). This analysis is particularly relevant in the context of recent changes to Health Canada's blood Hg guidance values.


We used data from cycle 1 (2007-2009) of the CHMS, in particular focussing on 5,319 respondents aged 6-79 years for whom blood THg data were available. We calculated descriptive statistics of blood Hg levels and analyzed the associations between blood THg levels and relevant variables. We also compared blood THg levels to existing Health Canada blood Hg guidance values.


The geometric mean blood THg level of the Canadian population was 0.69 µg/L (95% CI 0.56-0.86 µg/L). The majority (97.8%) of Canadian women aged 16-49 years, including pregnant women, had blood Hg values below the provisional HC blood guidance value of 8 µg/L. Mean blood THg levels were significantly higher in the "other or mixed" (1.14 µg/L, p=0.0003) and Asian (1.41 µg/L, p=0.0476) groups compared to those who self-identified as solely Caucasian (0.62 µg/L). There was however no significant difference between participants self-identified as Aboriginal Canadians versus Caucasians (0.56 µg/L vs 0.62 µg/L, p=0.2902).Fish and shellfish consumption significantly influenced blood Hg levels, as did alcohol consumption and the presence of dental amalgams.


This paper presents the first description of blood THg levels in the general Canadian population. These findings will serve as a national baseline for monitoring future changes should they arise.


Canada; Canadian Health Measures Survey; Mercury; biomonitoring; blood; methylmercury

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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