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Environ Toxicol Chem. 2019 Sep;38(9):1988-1994. doi: 10.1002/etc.4513. Epub 2019 Aug 6.

Tuna Consumption, Mercury Exposure, and Knowledge about Mercury Exposure Risk from Tuna Consumption in University Students.

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Microbiology and Environmental Toxicology Department, University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, California, USA.
Foothill College, Los Altos Hills, California, USA.
Department of Ocean Sciences, University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, California, USA.


We examined the relationships among tuna consumption, hair mercury levels, and knowledge of mercury exposure risk from tuna consumption in university students that were offered tuna daily at university-run dining halls. Hair total mercury levels in tuna consumers were higher than those in non-tuna consumers (average = 0.466 µg/g ± 0.328 standard deviation [SD], n = 20 vs 0.110 µg/g ± 0.105 SD, n = 33, respectively; p < 0.0001, Mann-Whitney U test), with tuna eaters exhibiting a positive relationship between self-reported tuna consumption at dining halls and hair mercury levels (R2  = 0.868, p < 0.0001, n = 17, linear regression). For all tuna eaters surveyed, more than half (54%) self-reported eating ≥3 tuna meals/wk, potentially exceeding the US Environmental Protection Agency's reference dose for methylmercury of 0.1 µg/kg body weight/d. Seven percent of study participants reported they consumed >20 tuna meals/wk, which was related to hair mercury levels >1 µg/g, a level of concern. Study participants had an overall lack of knowledge and confidence in their knowledge about mercury exposure risk from tuna consumption, with >99% of participants reporting low knowledge and low confidence in survey answers. Our study highlights the importance of education about the risks of tuna consumption, particularly in institutional settings where individuals have unlimited access to tuna products. Environ Toxicol Chem 2019;38:1988-1994.


Knowledge; Mercury; Methylmercury; Survey; Tuna


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