Environmental research

Exposure to mercury among Spanish preschool children: trend from birth to age four.

PMID 24747554


The purpose of this study is to describe the total hair mercury concentrations and their determinants in preschool Spanish children, as well as to explore the trend in mercury exposure from birth to the age four. This evolution has been scarcely studied in other birth cohort studies. The study population was 580 four year old children participating in the INMA (i.e. Childhood and Environment) birth cohort study in Valencia (2008-2009). Total mercury concentration at age four was measured in hair samples by atomic absorption spectrometry. Fish consumption and other covariates were obtained by questionnaire. Multivariate linear regression models were conducted in order to explore the association between mercury exposure and fish consumption, socio-demographic characteristics and prenatal exposure to mercury. The geometric mean was 1.10 µg/g (95%CI: 1.02, 1.19). Nineteen percent of children had mercury concentrations above the equivalent to the Provisional Tolerable Weekly Intake proposed by WHO. Mercury concentration was associated with increasing maternal age, fish consumption and cord blood mercury levels, as well as decreasing parity. Children whose mothers worked had higher mercury levels than those with non working mothers. Swordfish, lean fish and canned fish were the fish categories most associated with hair mercury concentrations. We observed a decreasing trend in mercury concentrations between birth and age four. In conclusion, the children participating in this study had high hair mercury concentrations compared to reported studies on children from other European countries and similar to other countries with high fish consumption. The INMA study design allows the evaluation of the exposure to mercury longitudinally and enables this information to be used for biomonitoring purposes and dietary recommendations.