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J Occup Health. 2018 Jan 25;60(1):89-93. doi: 10.1539/joh.16-0274-CS. Epub 2017 Nov 1.

Mercury poisoning in a fisherman working on a pelagic fishing vessel due to excessive tuna consumption.

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Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Chonnam National University Hwasun Hospital.
Department of Neurology, Chonnam National University Hospital.



To report the case of a fisherman who developed chronic mercury poisoning due to excessive consumption of tuna while working on a pelagic fishing vessel.


A 48-year-old male deep-sea fisherman developed paresthesia and pain in both legs while working at sea. He continued working for over 4 months on a pelagic fishing vessel but was eventually unable to function normally as his condition deteriorated. Upon arrival on land, he received specialist treatment, including imaging studies, for 2 months; however, the cause of the symptoms was not identified. An examination of his occupational history revealed that he had worked as a crew member on a pelagic fishing vessel catching tuna for the last 2 years and consumed tuna for two or more meals per day, every day. Two months after discontinuation of tuna consumption, he was tested for mercury. The result showed an elevated blood mercury level (BML) of 21.79 μg/l. Based on the half-life of mercury, the BML was evaluated as 38.70-53.20 μg/l when he was on board. Four months after discontinuing tuna consumption, his BML decreased to 14.18 μg/l, and the symptoms were almost ameliorated. The person responsible for preparing meals on a pelagic fishing ship should be aware that fish may contain high levels of heavy metals and should prepare meals for crew members according to the recommended levels. Crew members should also be aware that fish and shellfish may contain mercury, and hence, they should consume only an appropriate amount.


Consumption; Heavy metal poisoning; Korea; Mercury poisoning; Tuna

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