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Mercury health risk assessment among a young adult Lebanese population


Mercury (Hg) exposure represents a significant public health concern at a global level. This study aims at assessing Hg exposure and risk among Lebanese young adults based on Hg biomonitoring and seafood intake. A group of 166 young adults were administered a questionnaire to assess Hg exposure and were asked to provide a hair sample. Risk assessment was performed: (1) using the US Environmental Protection Agency Hazard Quotient (HQ) model based on fish intake and previously studied local fish Hg concentrations, and (2) by determining the total hair Hg concentration (THHg) using continuous flow-chemical vapor generation atomic absorption spectrometry. Differences in THHg across demographic and exposure subgroups were tested using t test or ANOVA. Correlations between THHg concentrations, fish consumption, and HQ were determined by computing Pearson’s r. Higher THHg correlated with higher consumption of Mediterranean rabbitfish/spinefoots (r = 0.27; p = 0.001) and geographical location (p < 0.001) in the bivariate analysis, and remained significant in the adjusted multivariable linear regression model (geographical location: ß = 0.255, 95%CI 0.121–0.388; rabbitfish/spinefoots consumption: ß = 0.016, 95%CI 0.004–0.027). No significant correlations were found between HQ and THHg. In conclusion, this is the first study examining hair Hg levels and fish consumption in a young adult Lebanese population. Our findings constitute valuable baseline data for a local fish advisory and Hg monitoring.

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The authors thank Dr. Gregory Kearney at the Florida Department of Health for sharing the questionnaire that was adapted for purposes of our study. This work was supported by a research grant from the University of Balamand (BIRG 20/2013).

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Correspondence to Hassan R. Dhaini.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institution and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The study was reviewed and approved by the Institutional Review Board of the University of Balamand. Informed consent was obtained from all participants in the study.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Responsible editor: Philippe Garrigues

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Obeid, P.J., Fares, S.A., Farhat, G.N. et al. Mercury health risk assessment among a young adult Lebanese population. Environ Sci Pollut Res 24, 9370–9378 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-017-8621-5

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  • Mercury
  • Risk assessment
  • Hair mercury concentrations
  • Fish consumption
  • Lebanese youth
  • Mediterranean