Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 1423–1430 | Cite as

Distributions and determinants of mercury concentrations in toenails among American young adults: the CARDIA Trace Element Study

  • Pengcheng Xun
  • Kiang Liu
  • J. Steve Morris
  • Joanne M. Jordan
  • Ka HeEmail author
Research Article


Since data on mercury (Hg) levels in Caucasians and African Americans (AAs) of both genders are lacking, this study aims to present toenail Hg distributions and explore the potential determinants using data from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Trace Element Study. Data from 4,344 Americans, aged 20–32 in 1987, recruited from Oakland, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Birmingham were used to measure toenail Hg levels by instrumental neutron-activation method. The Hg distribution was described with selected percentiles and geometric means. Multivariable linear regression (MLR) was used to examine potential determinants of Hg levels within ethnicity–gender subgroups. The geometric mean of toenail Hg was 0.212 (95 % CI = 0.207–0.218) μg/g. Hg levels varied geographically with Oakland the highest [0.381 (0.367–0.395) μg/g] and Minneapolis the lowest [0.140 (0.134–0.147) μg/g]. MLR analyses showed that male gender and AA ethnicity were negatively associated with toenail Hg levels, and that age, living in Oakland city, education level, alcohol consumption, and total fish intake were positively associated with toenail Hg concentrations within each ethnicity–gender subgroup. Current smokers were found to have higher Hg only in AA men. This study suggested age, gender, ethnicity, study center, alcohol, education level, and fish consumption consistently predict toenail Hg levels. As fish consumption was the key determinant, avoiding certain types of fish that have relatively high Hg levels may be crucial in reducing Hg intake.


Mercury Toenail Distribution Determinants American young adults Ethnicity CARDIA 



This study was supported by a grant R01HL081572 and contracts N01-HC-48047, N01-HC-48048, N01-HC-48049, N01-HC-48050, and N01-HC-95095 from the National Institutes of Health. The authors thank Drs. Lyn M. Steffen and Young-il Kim for their helpful comments. The authors also thank the other investigators and staff of the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) Study for their valuable contributions.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pengcheng Xun
    • 1
    • 2
  • Kiang Liu
    • 3
  • J. Steve Morris
    • 4
  • Joanne M. Jordan
    • 5
    • 6
    • 7
  • Ka He
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Nutrition, Gillings School of Global Public Health and School of MedicineUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  2. 2.Department of Epidemiology, Gillings School of Global Public HealthUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  3. 3.Department of Preventive Medicine, Feinberg School of MedicineNorthwestern UniversityChicagoUSA
  4. 4.Research Reactor CenterUniversity of Missouri–ColumbiaColumbiaUSA
  5. 5.Thurston Arthritis Research CenterUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  6. 6.Department of Medicine, School of MedicineUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  7. 7.Department of Orthopaedics, School of MedicineUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA

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