Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 169, Issue 1–4, pp 203–216 | Cite as

Mercury accumulation in fish species from the Persian Gulf and in human hair from fishermen

  • Homira Agah
  • Martine Leermakers
  • Yue Gao
  • S. M. R. Fatemi
  • M. Mohseni Katal
  • Willy BaeyensEmail author
  • Marc Elskens


Total and methylmercury concentrations were assessed in muscle and liver of 141 fish samples from the northern part of the Persian Gulf. All fish samples belonged to five different species: grunt, flathead, greasy grouper, tiger-tooth croaker, and silver pomfret. In addition, Hg and methylmercury were analyzed in scalp hair of 19 fishermen living in the same coastal stations of the Persian Gulf and consuming several fish meals a week. Total mercury concentrations in fish muscle and liver ranged from 0.01 to 1.35 μg g − 1 w.w. and from 0.02 to 1.30 μg g − 1 w.w., respectively. In fish muscle, 3% of the Hg concentrations were higher than 0.5 μg g − 1 w.w., which corresponds to the maximum acceptable WHO level, while 9% were in the range of polluted fish (between 0.3 and 0.5 μg g − 1 w.w.). The highest mercury concentrations in fish muscle were observed in flathead fish at Abadan (average of 0.68 μ g g − 1 w.w.). Methylmercury fractions in fish muscle and liver amount to 34–99% (median 64%) and 24–70% (median 43%), respectively. The mean total Hg concentration in the fishermen’s scalp hair amounted to 2.9 ± 2.2 μ g g − 1, with 68% in the form of methylmercury. Ninety-five percent of the Hg levels in the fishermen’s hair were below 10 μ g g − 1, which is the WHO warning limit. In addition, relationships between the mercury levels in hair, on the one hand, and exposure-related factors such as Hg levels in specific fish species, regional differences, and number of fish meals, on the other hand, are discussed. It appears that a significant correlation for example exists between Hg levels human hair and fish muscle or human hair and age and that mean mercury levels in fish muscle and human hair decreased from western (Abadan) to eastern (Abbas port) coastal sites.


Mercury Methylmercury Persian Gulf Fish Hair 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Homira Agah
    • 1
    • 3
  • Martine Leermakers
    • 1
  • Yue Gao
    • 1
  • S. M. R. Fatemi
    • 2
  • M. Mohseni Katal
    • 4
  • Willy Baeyens
    • 1
    Email author
  • Marc Elskens
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Analytical and Environmental Chemistry (ANCH)Vrije Universiteit BrusselBrusselsBelgium
  2. 2.Department of Marine Biology, Science and Research UnitIslamic Azad UniversityTehranIran
  3. 3.Oceanography of IranTehranIran
  4. 4.Hormozgan Regional OfficeEnvironment Organization of IranBandar-AbbasIran

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