Report: Women's Residence, Ethnicity Affect BHg Levels


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
January 19, 2009

A report published in the January issue of Environmental Health Perspectives found that women of childbearing age in coastal areas have higher-than-average mercury levels in their bodies.

The report, "Adult Women's Blood Mercury Concentrations Vary Regionally in the United States: Association with Patterns of Fish Consumption," found that women residing in coastal areas of the Northeastern United States had three to four times the risk of exceeding acceptable blood mercury (BHg) concentration levels than woman who live in the country's inland areas. Approximately one in six Northeastern women exceeded the 3.5 micrograms per liter level.

The report also showed women of Asian, Native American, Alaskan, Pacific Island and Caribbean descent were more likely to have elevated BHG levels. The authors said this is logical, as certain types of seafood that can contain high levels of mercury would be more available or acceptable to eat in those areas and by those ethnicities.

Women with annual household incomes of more than $75,000 also have higher-than-average BHg levels and run a greater risk of having elevated levels compared to women with annual household incomes of less than $55,000.

The study examined data collected between 1999 and 2004 in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

The overall proportion of women with high BHg levels over the study period did decline, though. Since the average amount of seafood consumed did not change much during the six-year study, the type of seafood they ate may have.

The report's authors are Kathryn Mahaffey, Robert Clickner and Rebecca Jeffries of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Science Coordination and Policy. 

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