Toxicological sciences : an official journal of the Society of Toxicology

Estimating Methylmercury Intake for the General Population of South Korea Using Physiologically Based Pharmacokinetic Modeling.

PMID 28903490


The Korean National Environmental Health Survey (KoNEHS 2009-2011) tracks levels of environmental pollutants in biological samples from the adult Korean population (age 19-88). Recent survey results for blood mercury (Hg) suggest some exceedance above existing blood Hg reference levels. Because total blood Hg represents both organic and inorganic forms, and methylmercury (MeHg) has been specifically linked to several adverse health outcomes, a need exists to quantify MeHg intake for this population. Gender, age, and frequency of fish consumption were first identified as important predictors of KoNEHS blood Hg levels using generalized linear models. Stratified distributions of total blood Hg were then used to estimate distributions of blood MeHg using fractions of MeHg to total Hg from the literature. Next, a published physiologically based pharmacokinetic (PBPK) model was used to predict distributions of blood MeHg as a function of MeHg intake; ratios of MeHg intake to model-predicted blood MeHg were then combined with KoNEHS-based blood MeHg values to produce MeHg intake estimates. These intake estimates were ultimately compared with the Reference Dose (RfD) for MeHg (0.1 µg/kg/day) and reported as margin of exposure (MOE) estimates for specific KoNEHS subgroups. The derived MOEs across all subgroups, based on estimated geometric mean intake, ranged from 1.6 to 4.1. These results suggest MeHg exposures approaching the RfD for several subgroups of the Korean population, and not just for specific subgroups (eg, those who eat fish very frequently).