Determination of Mercury Daily Intake and Hair-to-Blood Mercury Concentration Ratio in People Resident of the Coast of the Persian Gulf, Iran

  • Narjes Okati
  • Abbas Esmaili-sariEmail author


The objectives of this study were to understand the mercury daily intake and hair-to-blood mercury ratio in fishermen and non-fishermen families in the coast of the Persian Gulf in Iran. The mean mercury concentration in the hair of fishermen and non-fishermen families was 5.76 and 2.27 μg/g, respectively. The mean mercury concentrations of RBCs were obtained for fishermen families and non-fishermen families: 35.96 and 17.18 μg/L, respectively. Hair mercury concentrations in 17% of people were higher than 10 μg/g, the No Observed Adverse Effects Level set by the World Health Organization. 78% of people had a blood mercury value > 5.8 μg/L, the standard level set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. A significant correlation (r = 0.94, p = 0.000) was seen between log hair and RBCs mercury concentrations. The mean mercury daily intake for fishermen and non-fishermen families was 0.42 and 0.20 µg/kg BW per day, respectively. The mean mercury daily intake of fishermen families was higher than the provisional tolerable daily intake (0.23 µg/kg BW per day) suggested by the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives. Mercury daily intake significantly correlated with fish consumption (r = 0.50, p = 0.000) and log hair mercury (r = 0.88, p = 0.000). The total mean of hair-to-blood mercury concentration ratio was 306. We conclude that the use of mercury concentrations in the hair and RBCs could have been suitable biomarkers for predicting mercury exposure of people with a high rate of fish consumption.



This article is the part of the Ph.D. thesis of environmental pollution that is supported by Tarbiat Modares University. The authors thank the general directorate of fisheries Hormozgan and Bushehr provinces for help with the sampling collection process. They also appreciate the directorate of fisheries in Mahshahr for official cooperation.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethics Approval and Consent to Participate

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study. All subjects were informed that the data from the research protocol would be treated in an anonymous and collective way, with scientific methods and for scientific purposes in accordance with the principles of the Helsinki Declaration (World Medical Association 2008). This study was approved by the Ethical Committee of the Tarbiat Modares University (No. 1218312), as part of the Iranian observatory for mercury and health risk assessment.


  1. Abdolahpur Monikh F, Hosseini M, Rahmanpour S (2013) The effect of size and sex on PCB and PAH concentrations in crab Portunus pelagicus. Environ Monit Assess 186:1575–1582. doi: 10.1007/s10661-013-3475-x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Agah H, Leermakers M, Gao Y, Fatemi SMR et al (2010) Mercury accumulation in fish species from the Persian Gulf and in human hair from fishermen. Environ Monit Assess 169:203–216. doi: 10.1007/s10661-009-1162-8 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Agusa T, Kunito T, Iwata I, Monirith I, Tana TS, Subramanian A, Tanabe S (2005) Mercury contamination in human hair and fish from Cambodia: levels, specific accumulation and risk assessment. Environ Pollut 134:79–86. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2004.07.015 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Al-Majed NB, Preston MR (2000) Factors influencing the total mercury and methyl mercury in the hair of the fishermen of Kuwait. Environ Pollut 109(2):239–250. doi: 10.1016/S0269-7491(99)00261-4 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Askary SA, Velayatzadeh M, Mohammadi M (2010) Mercury concentration in mudskipper (Periophthalmus waltoni) and flat Fish (Cynoglossus arel) in Bandar-e-Emam and Bandar Abbas. J Fish 4(2):51–57Google Scholar
  6. Azimi A, Dadolahi Sohrab A, Safahieh A, Zolgharnein H, Savari A, Faghiri I (2012) The study of heavy metals (Hg, Cd, Pb, and Cu) levels in sediments of north-west of Persian Gulf—Imam Khomeini Port. J Oceanogr 3(11):33–41Google Scholar
  7. Berglund M, Lind B, Bjornberg KA, Palm B, Einarsson O, Vahter M (2005) Inter-individual variations of human mercury exposure biomarkers: a cross-sectional assessment. J Environ Health 4:20. doi: 10.1186/1476-069X-4-20 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bradley MA, Barst BD, Basu N (2017) A review of mercury bioavailability in humans and fish. Int J Environ Res Public Health 14(2):169. doi: 10.3390/ijerph14020169 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Budtz-Jørgensen E, Grandjean P, Jørgensen PJ, Weihe P, Keiding N (2004) Association between mercury concentrations in blood and hair in methylmercury exposed subjects at different ages. Environ Res 95:385–393. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2003.11.001 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Carrier G, Bouchard M, Brunet RC, Caza M (2001) A toxicokinetic model for predicting the tissue distribution and elimination of organic and inorganic mercury following exposure to methyl mercury in animals and humans. II. Application and validation of the model in humans. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol 171:50–60. doi: 10.1006/taap.2000.9112 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) (2015) Biomonitoring summary: mercury. Accessed 20 Jan 2015
  12. Chang JY, Park JS, Shin S, Yang HR, Moon HS, Ko JS (2015) Mercury exposure in healthy Korean weaning-age infants: association with growth, feeding and fish intake. Int J Environ Res Public Health 12:14669–14689. doi: 10.3390/ijerph121114669 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Chen G, Chen X, Yan C, Wu X, Zeng G (2014) Surveying mercury levels in hair, blood and urine of under 7-year olds children from a coastal city in China. Int J Environ Res Public Health 11(11):12029–12041. doi: 10.3390/ijerph111112029 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Chien LC, Gao CS, Lin HH (2010) Hair mercury concentration and fish consumption: risk and perceptions of risk among women of childbearing age. Environ Res 110:123–129. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2009.10.001 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Clarkson TW, Magos L (2006) The toxicology of mercury and its chemical compounds. Crit Rev Toxicol 36(8):609–662. doi: 10.1080/10408440600845619 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Diez S, Montuori P, Pagano A, Sarnacchiaro P, Bavona JM, Triassi M (2008) Hair mercury levels in an urban population from Southern Italy: fish consumption as a determinant of exposure. Environ Int 34:162–167. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2007.07.015 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Díez S, Esbrí JM, Tobias A, Higueras P, Martínez-Coronado A (2011) Determinants of exposure to mercury in hair from inhabitants of the largest mercury mine in the world. Chemosphere 84:571–577. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2011.03.065 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fakour H, Esmaili-Sari A, Zayeri F (2010) Mercury exposure assessment in Iranian women’s hair of a port town with respect to fish consumption and amalgam fillings. Sci Total Environ 408:1538–1543. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2010.01.008 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Farsi B, Seyfabadi J, Owfi F, Aramli MS (2015) Effect of environmental conditions on spatial distribution of Macrobenthic community in the Bushehr coasts of the Persian Gulf. Turk J Fish Aquat Sci 15:869–878. doi: 10.4194/1303-2712-v15_4_10 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gosselin NH, Brunet RC, Carrier G, Bouchard M, Feeley M (2006) Reconstruction of methylmercury intakes in indigenous populations from biomarker data. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. doi: 10.1038/sj.jea.7500433 Google Scholar
  21. Halbach S, Vogt S, Köhler W, Felgenhauer N, Welzl G, Kremers L, Zilker T, Melchart D (2008) Blood and urine mercury levels in adult amalgam patients of a randomized controlled trial: interaction of Hg species in erythrocytes. Environ Res 107:69–78. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2007.07.005 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Harada M (1982) Minimata disease: mercury poisoning caused by ingestion of contaminated fish. In: Jelliffe EFP, Jelliffe DB (eds) Adverse effect of food. Plenum Publishing Co, New York, pp 135–148CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Health Canada (2001) Advisory: Information on mercury levels in fish. Accessed 29 May 2001
  24. Hosseini M, Nabavi SMB, Parsa Y (2013) Bioaccumulation of mercury in trophic level of benthic, benthopelagic, pelagic fish species and sea bird from Arvand River, Iran. Biol Trace Elem Res 156:175–180. doi: 10.1007/s12011-013-9841-2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. JECFA (Joint FAO, WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives) (2004) Safety evaluation of certain food additives and contaminants. Series No. 52. World Health Organization, GenevaGoogle Scholar
  26. JECFA (Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives) (2014) Evaluation of certain food additives and contaminants (sixty-first report of the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives). Accessed 24 August 2014
  27. Jo EM, Kim BG, Kim YM, Yu SD, You CH, Kim JY, Hong YS (2010) Blood mercury concentration and related factors in an urban coastal area in Korea. J Prev Med Public Health 43(5):377–386. doi: 10.3961/jpmph.2010.43.5.377 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Johnsson C, Schutz A, Sallsten G (2005) Impact of consumption of freshwater fish on mercury levels in hair, blood, urine, and alveolar air. J Toxicol Environ Health A 68(2):129–140. doi: 10.1080/15287390590885992 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Khoshnood R, Jaafarzadeh N, Khoshnood Z, Ahmadi M, Teymouri P (2014) Estimation of target hazard quotients for metals by consumption of fish in the North Coast of the Persian Gulf, Iran. J Adv Environ Health Res 2(4):263–272Google Scholar
  30. Kim EH, Kim IK, Kwon JY, Kim SW, Park YW (2006) The effect of fish consumption on blood mercury levels of pregnant women. Yonsei Med J 47(5):626–633. doi: 10.1016/j.ijheh.2016.05.004 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kim SA, Kwon YM, Kim S, Joung H (2016) Assessment of dietary mercury intake and blood mercury levels in the Korean population: results from the Korean national environmental health survey 2012–2014. Int J Environ Res Public Health 13(9):877. doi: 10.3390/ijerph13090877 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Knobeloch L, Anderson HA, Imm P, Peters D, Smith A (2005) Fish consumption, advisory awareness, and hair mercury levels among women of childbearing age. Environ Res 97(2):220–227. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2004.07.001 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Knobeloch L, Gliori G, Anderson H (2007) Assessment of methyl mercury exposure in Wisconsin. Environ Res 103:205–210. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2006.05.012 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kruzikova K, Kensova R, Blahova J, Harustiakova D, Svobodova Z (2009) Using human hair as an indicator for exposure to mercury. Neuro Endocrinol Lett 30(1):177–181Google Scholar
  35. Laliberté C, Dewailly E, Gringas S, Ayotte P, Weber JP, Sauvé L, Benedetti JL (1992) Mercury contamination in fishermen of the Lower North Shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence (Québec, Canada). In: Vernet JP (ed) Impact of heavy metals on the environment: trace metals in the environment, vol 2. Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp 15–28Google Scholar
  36. Legrand M, Feeley M, Tikhonov C, Schoen D, Li-Muller A (2010) Methylmercury blood guidance values for Canada. Can J Public Health 101(1):28–31. doi: 10.17269/cjph.101.2181 Google Scholar
  37. Liberda EN, Tsuji LST, Martin ID, Ayotte P, Dewailly E, Nieboer E (2014) The complexity of hair /blood mercury concentration ratios and its implications. Environ Res 134:286–294. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2014.08.007 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Lieske CL, Moses SK, Castellini JM, Klejka J, Hueffer K, O’Hara TM (2011) Toxicokinetics of mercury in blood compartments and hair of fish-fed sled dogs. Acta Vet Scand 53(1):66. doi: 10.1186/1751-0147-53-66 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Lindberg A, Bjornberg KA, Vahter M, Berglund M (2004) Exposure to methylmercury in non-fish eating people in Sweden. Environ Res 96:28–33. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2003.09.005 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Liu JL, Xu XR, Yu S, Cheng H, Peng JX, Hong YG, Feng XB (2014) Mercury contamination in fish and human hair from Hainan Island, South China Sea: implication for human exposure. Environ Res 135:42–47. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2014.08.023 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Madiseh SD, Savary A, Parham H, Sabzalizadeh S (2009) Determination of the level of contamination in Khuzestan coastal waters (Northern Persian Gulf) by using an Ecological Risk Index. Environ Monit Assess 159:521–530CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Mahaffey KR, Clicker RP, Bodurow CC (2004) Blood organic mercury and dietary mercury intake: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999 and 2000. Environ Health Perspect 112(5):562–570CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Malm O, Guimaraes JR, Castro MB, Bastos WR, Viana JP, Branches FJ, Silveira EG, Pfeiffer WC (1997) Follow-up of mercury levels in fish, human hair and urine in the Madeira and Tapajos basins, Amazon, Brazil. Water Air Soil Pollut 97(1–2):45–51. doi: 10.1023/A:1018340619475 Google Scholar
  44. Marrugo-Negrete JL, Ruiz-Guzmán JA, Díez S (2013) Relationship between mercury levels in hair and fish consumption in a population living near a hydroelectric tropical Dam. Biol Trace Elem Res 151:187–194. doi: 10.1007/s12011-012-9561-z CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. McDowell MA, Dillon CF, Osterloh J, Bolger PM, Pellizzari E, Fernando R et al (2004) Hair mercury levels in U.S. children and women of childbearing age: reference range data from NHANES 1999–2000. Environ Health Perspect 112:1165–1171. doi: 10.1289/ehp.7046 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Mergler D, Anderson HA, Chan LHM, Mahaffey KR, Murray M, Sakamoto M et al (2007) Methylmercury exposure and health effects in humans: a worldwide concern. Ambio 36(1):3–11. doi:  10.1579/0044-7447(2007)36[3:MEAHEI]2.0.CO;2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Michalak I, Chojnacka K, Saeid A, Mikulewicz M (2014) Research on mercury levels in scalp hair. Pol J Environ Stud 23(3):793–800. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2007.08.015 Google Scholar
  48. Mortada WI, Sobh MA, El-Defrawy MM, Farahat SE (2002) Reference intervals of cadmium, lead, and mercury in blood, urine, hair, and nails among residents in Mansoura city, Nile Delta, Egypt. Environ Res 90:104–110. doi: 10.1006/enrs.2002.4396 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. National Research Council (2000) Toxicological effects of methylmercury. National Academy Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  50. Nuttall KL (2006) Interpreting hair mercury levels in individual patients. Ann Clin Lab Sci 36(3):248–261 (review) Google Scholar
  51. Okati N, Esmaili-Sari A, Ghasempouri SM (2012) Hair mercury concentrations of lactating mothers and breastfed infants in Iran (fish consumption and mercury exposure). Biol Trace Elem Res 149(2):155–162. doi: 10.1007/s12011-012-9424-7 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Olivero J, Johnson B, Arguello E (2002) Human exposure to mercury in San Jorge river basin, Colombia (South America). Sci Total Environ 289:41–47. doi: 10.1016/S0048-9697(01)01018-X CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Prokopowicz A, Pawlas N, Ochota P, Szula M, Sobczak A, Pawlas K (2014) Blood levels of lead, cadmium, and mercury in healthy women in their 50s in an urban area of Poland: a pilot study. Pol J Environ Stud 23(1):167–175. doi: 10.2478/s13382-014-0275-7 Google Scholar
  54. Safahieh A, Abdolahpur Monikh F, Savari A (2011) Heavy metals contamination in sediment and sole fish (Euryglossa orientalis) from Musa estuary (Persian Gulf). World J Fish Mar Sci 3(4):290–297Google Scholar
  55. Salehi Z, Esmaili-sari A (2010) Hair mercury levels in pregnant women in Mahshahr, Iran: fish consumption as a determinant of exposure. Sci Total Environ 408:4848–4854CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Santos ECO, Camara VM, Jesus IM, Brabo ES, Loureiro ECB et al (2002) A contribution to the establishment of reference values for total mercury levels in hair and fish in Amazonia. Environ Res 90:6–11. doi: 10.1006/enrs.2002.4366 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Schulz C, Wilhelm M, Heudorf U, Kolossa-Gehring M (2011) Update of the reference and HBM values derived by the German Human Biomonitoring Commission. Int J Hyg Environ Health 215:26–35. doi: 10.1016/j.ijheh.2011.06.007 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Schweinsberg F (1994) Risk estimation of mercury intake from different sources. Toxicol Lett 72:345–351. doi: 10.1016/0378-4274(94)90047-7 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Shao D, Kang T, Cheng Z, Wang H, Huang M, Wu S, Chen K, Wong MH (2013) Hair mercury levels and food consumption in residents from the Pearl River Delta: South China. Food Chem 136:682–688. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2012.08.059 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Sherlock JC, Lindsay DG, Hislop JE, Evans WH, Collier TR (1982) Duplication diet study on mercury intake by consumers in the United Kingdom. Arch Environ Health 37:271–278. doi: 10.1080/00039896.1982.10667578 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Sirot V, Guerin T, Mauras Y, Garraud H, Volatier JL, Leblanc JC (2008) Methylmercury exposure assessment using dietary and biomarker data among frequent seafood consumers in France CALIPSO study. Environ Res. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2007.12.005 Google Scholar
  62. Srogi K (2007) Mercury content of hair in different populations relative to fish consumption. Rev Environ Contam Toxicol 189:107–130. doi: 10.1007/978-0-387-35368-5_5 Google Scholar
  63. Storelli MM, Stuffler RG, Marcotrigiano GO (2002) Total and methylmercury residues in tuna-fish from the Mediterranean Sea. Food Addit Contam 19(8):715–720. doi: 10.1080/02652030210153569 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Stube AE, Freiser HH, Santerre CR (2011) A method for the measurement of mercury in human whole blood. Am J Analyt Chem 2:752–756. doi: 10.4236/ajac.2011.27086 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Tsuchiya A, Duff R, Stern AH, White JW, Krogstad F, Burbacher TM et al (2012) Single blood-hg samples can result in exposure misclassification: temporal monitoring within the Japanese community (United States). Environ Health 11:37. doi: 10.1186/1476-069X-11-37 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Tsuji M, Ando T, Kitano T, Wakamiya J, Koriyama C, Akiba S (2012) Relationship between RBC mercury levels and serum n3 polyunsaturated fatty acid concentrations among Japanese men and women. J Environ Public Health 1:1–6. doi: 10.1155/2012/849305 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. UNEP (2002) Global mercury assessment. United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Chemicals Mercury Program. Accessed 21 Dec 2002
  68. UNEP (2008) Guidance for identifying populations at risk from mercury exposure. Issued by UNEP DTIE Chemicals Branch and WHO Department of Food Safety, Zoonoses and Foodborne Diseases Geneva, Switzerland.
  69. UNEP (2013) Global Mercury Assessment 2013: Sources, Emissions, Releases and Environmental Transport. UNEP Chemicals Branch, Geneva, Switzerland.
  70. UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization) (2003) Removal of barriers to introduction of cleaner artisanal gold mining and extraction technologies.
  71. USEPA (1997) Mercury study report to congress volumes I to VII. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards and Office of Research and Development, Washington DC. EPA-452/R-97-003.
  72. USEPA (2005) Water quality criterion for the protection of human health: methylmercury. Accessed 29 June 2005
  73. USEPA (2009) Final strategic plan for the future of toxicity testing and risk assessment at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Accessed 25 June 2009
  74. Voegborlo R, Matsuyama A, Adimado A, Akagi H (2010) Head hair total mercury and methylmercury levels in some Ghanaian individuals for the estimation of their exposure to mercury: preliminary studies. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 84:34–38. doi: 10.1007/s00128-009-9901-7 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Wennberg M, Lundh T, Bergdahl IA, Hallmans G, Jansson JH, Stegmayr B et al (2006) Time trends in burdens of cadmium, lead, and mercury in the population of northern Sweden. Environ Res 100(3):330–338. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2005.08.013 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. WHO (1990) Environmental health criteria 101. Methylmercury. World Health Organization, Geneva, SwitzerlandGoogle Scholar
  77. WHO (2003) Elemental mercury and inorganic mercury compounds human health aspects. Concise international chemical assessment document 50. World Health Organization, Geneva, SwitzerlandGoogle Scholar
  78. World Medical Association (2008) Declaration of Helsinki: ethical principles for medical research involving human subjects. Adopted by the 18th WMA General Assembly, Helsinki, Finland, June 1964, and amended by the 59th WMA General Assembly, Seoul, October 2008. Accessed 26 March 2013
  79. Yaginuma-Sakurai K, Murata K, Iwai-Shimada M, Nakai K, Kurokawa N, Tatsuta N, Satoh H (2012) Hair-to-blood ratio and biological half-life of mercury: experimental study of methylmercury exposure through fish consumption in humans. J Toxicol Sci 37:123–130. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2014.08.007 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Zolfaghari G, Esmaili-Sari A, Ghsempouri SM, Faghihzadeh S (2007) Evaluation of environmental and occupational exposure to mercury among Iranian dentists. Sci Total Environ 381:59–67. doi: 10.1539/joh.13-0008-OA CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environment, Faculty of Natural Resources and Marine ScienceTarbiat Modares UniversityNoorIran

Personalised recommendations