Environment international

Probabilistic mercury multimedia exposure assessment in small children and risk assessment.

PMID 23928037


Emissions of mercury in the environment have been decreasing for several years. However, mercury species are still found in different media (food, water, air and breast-milk). Due to mercury toxicity and typical behaviour in children, we have conducted a mercury exposure assessment in French babies, and small children aged 0 to 36months. Consumption and mercury concentration data were chosen for the exposure assessment. The Monte Carlo technique has been used to calculate the weekly exposure dose in order to integrate inter-individual variability and parameter uncertainty. Exposure values have been compared to toxicological reference values for health risk assessment. Inorganic mercury median exposure levels ranged from 0.160 to 1.649μg/kg of body weight per week (95th percentile (P95): 0.298-2.027µg/kg bw/week); elemental mercury median exposure level in children was 0.11ng/kg bw/week (P95: 28ng/kg bw/week); and methylmercury median exposure level ranged from 0.247 to 0.273µg/kg bw/week (P95: 0.425-0.463µg/kg bw/week). Only elemental mercury by inhalation route (indoor air) and methylmercury by ingestion (fish and breast-milk) seem to lead to a health risk in small children. These results confirm the importance of assessing total mercury concentration in media like breast-milk, indoor air and dust and methylmercury level in food, other than fish and seafood. In this way, informed monitoring plan and risk assessment in an at-risk sub-population can be set.