Online Program

Blood mercury levels in avid seafood consumers indicate need for targeted education

Monday, November 4, 2013 : 2:50 p.m. - 3:10 p.m.

Susan Silbernagel, M.P.A., Consortium for InterDisciplinary Environmental Research, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY
Roxanne Karimi, Ph.D., School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY
Jaymie R. Meliker, PhD, Graduate Program in Public Health, Stony Brook University Medical Center, Stony Brook, NY
Methylmercury is a neurotoxicant that can produce damaging health effects on the developing child as well as in adults. The EPA established a reference dose (RfD) for methylmercury in 1999 to define a level of human daily exposure to be without appreciable risk including for sensitive populations such as the developing child; the RfD of 0.1 µg mercury/kg body weight/day corresponds to a blood level of 5.8 µg/L. Since 1999 several studies have identified neurodevelopmental effects from exposures at levels below the current RfD, suggesting the RfD may not afford adequate protection. Seafood consumption is the primary non-occupational exposure source to methylmercury. We examined seafood consumption patterns and blood mercury levels in a cohort of 285 avid adult seafood consumers from Long Island, NY. We measured their blood mercury levels and estimated their seafood intake using a food frequency questionnaire. The mean Hg concentration for female avid seafood consumers (geometric mean = 4.52 µg/L) was 5-fold higher than that of women in the general U.S. population, estimated by the 2009-2010 US National health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). We found that 26% of avid seafood consuming females of child bearing age (18-49 years old) had blood mercury levels above the RfD (geometric mean = 3.47 µg/L) as compared to about 5% of women aged 16-49 in the general U.S. population as estimated by NHANES. As seen in other studies, blood mercury levels increased with increasing age; 60% of participants ≥60 years old had blood mercury levels greater than the EPA RfD (geometric mean=6.36 µg/L). These findings identify an at-risk population of avid seafood consumers that could benefit from information on how to enjoy seafood while making low-mercury seafood choices. Our results will inform recommendations for how to advise avid seafood consumers.

Learning Areas:

Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines

Learning Objectives:
Compare blood mercury levels in general population versus avid seafood eaters. Describe the reference dose for methylmercury and how it’s used as a guideline to monitor exposure levels. Define fish consumption patterns associated with high blood mercury levels. Describe low mercury fish choices.

Keyword(s): Environmental Exposures, Risk Factors

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I will present data from our research team under their advisement. I am co-author on the paper "Recognizing and Preventing Overexposure to Methylmercury from Fish and Seafood Consumption: Information for Physicians" Journal of Toxicology Volume 2011 (2011), Article ID 983072,doi:10.1155/2011/983072
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.