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Hair mercury levels in an urban population from southern Italy: fish consumption as a determinant of exposure.

Research paper by Sergi S Díez, Paolo P Montuori, Adele A Pagano, Pasquale P Sarnacchiaro, Josep M JM Bayona, Maria M Triassi

Indexed on: 02 Oct '07Published on: 02 Oct '07Published in: Environment International



Abstract

Mercury levels in hair of a general population, 237 adults aged between 35-45, in Naples, Italy, were assessed. The subjects were asked to fill in a questionnaire about age, gender, body weight, height, body mass index (BMI), fish consumption, number, surface and area of dental amalgam fillings. Total mercury (THg) concentrations in human hair ranged from 0.221 to 3.402 microg/g and the mean value for the subjects under study was 0.638 microg/g. Study participants were divided into three groups in accordance with fish consumption and dental amalgam: ANF (amalgam and no fish); NAF (no amalgam but with fish) and AAF (amalgam and fish). Significant differences in THg were found in the three groups (p<0.05). A multiple linear regression analysis showed a weak but significant correlation of THg content in hair with respect to gender and age, but almost no association was found between THg and dental fillings. Conversely, a strong correlation was obtained between THg and fish consumption regardless of the group evaluated. Finally, mercury levels in hair exceeded the levels corresponding to the EPA reference dose (RfD) of 0.1 microg Hg/kg body weight per day (1 microg Hg/g hair) in 6% of the population (4% men and 2% women). However, the THg limits in our subjects were not exceeded according to the WHO guidelines, which use a benchmark dose of 0.23 microg Hg/kg bw/day (14 microg Hg/g maternal hair).