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Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 2014 Jul;87(5):501-13. doi: 10.1007/s00420-013-0891-8. Epub 2013 Jul 4.

Reference levels of blood mercury and association with metabolic syndrome in Korean adults.

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Department of Preventive Medicine, College of Medicine, Chungbuk National University, Cheongju, Korea.



Mercury (Hg) is a nonessential and toxic metal that is widely distributed in the environment. This study was performed to estimate the representative blood Hg level, to determine the contributing factors to Hg exposure, and to analyze the association of blood Hg with metabolic syndrome in Korean adults.


Mercury exposure is assessed by total Hg concentration in blood. A total of 2,114 healthy adults who have not been exposed to Hg occupationally were sampled by the multistaged, sex-, and age-stratified probability method. Information was collected regarding the subjects' demographic characteristics, lifestyles, and past medical history. The participants then underwent physical examination and blood sampling.


The geometric mean concentration of Hg in whole blood was 3.90 μg/L, which was significantly influenced by sex, age, smoking, alcoholic consumption, residence area, and seafood intake after adjustment for confounders. Significant increases in body mass index, waist circumference, diastolic blood pressure, total cholesterol, and triglyceride were observed according to the blood Hg levels after adjustment for covariates. Also, Hg exposure was significantly associated with metabolic syndrome and their components such as obesity and increased fasting glucose.


The blood Hg level in Korean adults is higher than that in USA and other Western countries, while it is similar to or lower than that in other Asian countries. The blood Hg level is influenced by sociodemographic factors and individual lifestyles including dietary habits. Furthermore, blood Hg is associated with metabolic syndrome, in which Hg exposure may play a role as a possible risk factor for cardiovascular diseases.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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