Faculty of Public Health - Andalas University - OCS, 13th IEA SEA Meeting and ICPH - SDev

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Assessment of mercury exposure among children in Malaysia
Nurul Izzah Abdul Samad, Zaleha Md Isa, Rozita Hod

Last modified: 2018-08-20


Background : Methylmercury, a toxic form of mercury was commonly exposed to the community through fish and seafood consumption. Its adverse effects are usually associated with neurobehavioral disturbances and more prominent to the vulnerable groups such as baby and children. The objectives of this study were to determine the mercury levels among Malaysian children and to assess the possible health risks via fish consumption.

Materials and methods : A total of two hundred and fifteen eleven-year-old children participated in this study. Total mercury (THg) was determined using hair samples from the occipital region at the back of the head. The evaluation of mercury concentration was carried out using oxygen combustion-gold amalgamation procedure using atomic absorption spectrometry. Anthropometric data and fish consumption frequency were determined from the respondents.


Results : The geometric mean for mercury in hair was 0.47 µg/g. Fish consumption was the main parameter contributing to the mercury levels in hair. Hair mercury was higher in children living in the rural area compared to the urban area. No significant relationship was found between smoking or amalgam filling statuses and mercury levels, but the population studied did involve these groups. The estimated daily intake (EDI) for Thg among the children was 25.57 µg/d, corresponds to 4.89 µg/kg bw/week. Meanwhile, 14% exceeded the recommended level of 1 µg mercury/g hair as imposed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA).


Conclusions : The dietary intake for this group of children was greater than the reference dose (RfD) suggested by the USEPA of 0.1 µg/kg bw/d and exceed the provisional tolerable weekly intake (PTWI) for methylmercury regulated by the World Health Organization (WHO). Overall, this study is the first to contribute to the baseline data for mercury hair concentration among children in Malaysia.

Acknowledgements: This study was supported by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) Fundamental Research Grant (FF–2016–393). The researchers would like to thank the Ministry of Education Malaysia, the school administrators of the participated schools, and students and parents/guardian for their cooperation.


keywords : Human hair, Mercury exposure, Children, Fish consumption