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Mercury concentrations in China's coastal waters and implications for fish consumption by vulnerable populations

Tong, Yindong, Wang, Mengzhu, Bu, Xiaoge, Guo, Xin, Lin, Yan, Lin, Huiming, Li, Jing, Zhang, Wei, Wang, Xuejun
Environmental pollution 2017 v.231 pp. 396-405
United States Environmental Protection Agency, at-risk population, blood, carnivores, coastal water, coasts, data collection, fish, fish consumption, food chain, guidelines, humans, infants, ingestion, mercury, methylmercury compounds, models, pollutants, pregnant women, China, East China Sea, South China Sea, United States, Yellow Sea
We assessed mercury (Hg) pollution in China's coastal waters, including the Bohai Sea, the Yellow Sea, the East China Sea and the South China Sea, based on a nationwide dataset from 301 sampling sites. A methylmercury (MeHg) intake model for humans based on the marine food chain and human fish consumption was established to determine the linkage between water pollutants and the pollutant intake by humans. The predicted MeHg concentration in fish from the Bohai Sea was the highest among the four seas included in the study. The MeHg intake through dietary ingestion was dominant for the fish and was considerably higher than the MeHg intake through water respiration. The predicted MeHg concentrations in human blood in the coastal regions of China ranged from 1.37 to 2.77 μg/L for pregnant woman and from 0.43 to 1.00 μg/L for infants, respectively, based on different diet sources. The carnivorous fish consumption advisory for pregnant women was estimated to be 288–654 g per week to maintain MeHg concentrations in human blood at levels below the threshold level (4.4 μg/L established by the US Environmental Protection Agency). With a 50% increase in Hg concentrations in water in the Bohai Sea, the bioaccumulated MeHg concentration (4.5 μg/L) in the fish consumers will be higher than the threshold level. This study demonstrates the importance in controlling Hg pollution in China's coastal waters. An official recommendation guideline for the fish consumption rate and its sources will be necessary for vulnerable populations in China.