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Total blood mercury and its determinants in New Zealand children and adults

Abstract

Background

Mercury is a widespread persistent environmental pollutant associated with adverse health effects.

Objective

This first national biomonitoring survey of blood total mercury (tHg) conducted in New Zealand aimed to provide baseline data and identify exposure determinants.

Methods

Blood was collected from 191 children (age 5–18 years) and 304 adults (20–65) in 2014–2016 and analysed for tHg using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Linear regression was used to assess associations with demographic and lifestyle factors.

Results

Blood mercury was detected in 93% of children and 99% of adults, with geometric means (GMs) of 0.86 and 1.65 µg/L, respectively. The 60–65-year olds had the highest GM (2.34 µg/L). Regression indicated that tHg was 40% higher in boys compared to girls. Eating fish ≥ 3 times/week (compared to ≤once/week) was associated with 2.7 and 1.7 times higher tHg in children and adults, respectively. Shellfish consumption was also associated with higher tHg. High daily tap water consumption (≥2 L for children, ≥3 L for adults) was associated with lower tHg. In adults, smoking and milk consumption were associated with higher tHg.

Significance

Fish and shellfish consumption is a strong determinant of New Zealanders blood tHg levels, with water and milk consumption possibly acting as modulating factors.

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Fig. 1: Total blood mercury in blood of New Zealanders in 2014-2016.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank all study participants for their support.

Funding

This biomonitoring survey was funded by the New Zealand Ministry of Health.

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Correspondence to Andrea ’t Mannetje.

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’t Mannetje, A., Coakley, J. & Douwes, J. Total blood mercury and its determinants in New Zealand children and adults. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 31, 289–298 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41370-021-00296-7

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Keywords

  • Total mercury
  • Blood
  • Adults
  • Children
  • Determinants

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