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Blood Mercury Reporting in NHANES: Identifying Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, and Multiracial Groups *

Introduction. Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans are a potentially high-risk group for dietary exposure to methylmercury through fish consumption. However, blood mercury levels in this group have not been identified in recent reports of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) for the years 1999–2002.

Methods. We used NHANES data from 1999–2002 to obtain population estimates of blood mercury levels among women of childbearing age classified as belonging to the “other” racial/ethnic group (Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, and multiracial; n = 140). Blood mercury levels in this group were compared with those among all other women participants, classified as Mexican American, non-Hispanic black, non-Hispanic white, and “other” Hispanic.

Results. An estimated 16.59 ± 4.0% (mean ± SE) of adult female participants who self-identified as Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, or multiracial (n = 140) had blood mercury levels ≥5.8 μg/L, and 27.26 ± 4.22% had levels ≥3.5 μg/L. Among remaining survey participants (n = 3,497), 5.08 ± 0.90% had blood mercury levels ≥5.8 μg/L, and 10.86 ± 1.45% had levels ≥3.5 μg/L.

Conclusions. Study subjects in NHANES who self-identified as Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, or multiracial had a higher prevalence of elevated blood mercury than all other racial/ethnic participants in the survey. Future studies should address reasons for the high mercury levels in this group and explore possible interventions for lowering risk of methylmercury exposure in this population.

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THE INFORMATION IN THIS WEBSITE IS OFFERED FOR GENERAL EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND DOES NOT IMPLY OR GIVE MEDICAL ADVICE. No Doctor/Patient relationship shall be deemed to have arisen simply by reading the information contained on these pages, and you should consult with your personal physician/care giver regarding your medical treatment before undergoing any sort of treatment or therapy.

Published on 11-17-2008
Authors: Jane M. Hightower,1 Ann O’Hare,2 and German T. Hernandez3
Source: Environ Health Perspect. 2006 February; 114(2),: 173–175.