More Than Half of US Youth Consume Seafood and Most Have Blood Mercury Concentrations below the EPA Reference Level, 2009–2012
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More Than Half of US Youth Consume Seafood and Most Have Blood Mercury Concentrations below the EPA Reference Level, 2009–2012

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  • English

  • Details:

    • Alternative Title:
      J Nutr
    • Description:

      Consuming seafood has health benefits, but seafood can also contain methylmercury, a neurotoxicant.Exposure to methylmercury affects children at different stages of brain development, including during adolescence.


      The objective was to examine seafood consumption and blood mercury concentrations in US youth.


      In the 2009–2012 NHANES, a cross-sectional nationally representative sample of the US population, seafood consumption in the past 30 d and blood mercury concentrations on the day of examination were collected from 5656 youth aged 1–19 y. Log-linear regression was used to examine the association between frequency of specific seafood consumption and blood mercury concentration, adjusting for race/Hispanic origin, sex, and age.


      In 2009–2012, 62.4% ± 1.4% (percent ± SE) of youth consumed any seafood in the preceding month; 38.4% ± 1.4% and 48.5% ± 1.5% reported consuming shellfish and fish, respectively. In 2009–2012, the geometric mean blood mercury concentration was 0.50 ± 0.02 μg/L among seafood consumers and 0.27 ± 0.01 μg/L among those who did not consume seafood. Less than 0.5% of youth had blood mercury concentrations ≥5.8 μg/L. In adjusted log-linear regression analysis, no significant associations were observed between frequency of breaded fish or catfish consumption and blood mercury concentrations, but frequency of consuming certain seafood types had significant positive association with blood mercury concentrations: high-mercury fish (swordfish and shark) [exponentiated β coefficient (expβ): 2.40; 95% CI: 1.23, 4.68]; salmon (expβ: 1.41; 95% CI: 1.26, 1.55); tuna (expβ: 1.38; 95% CI: 1.29, 1.45); crabs (expβ: 1.35; 95% CI: 1.17, 1.55); shrimp (expβ: 1.12; 95% CI: 1.05, 1.20), and all other seafood (expβ: 1.23; 95% CI: 1.17, 1.32). Age-stratified log-linear regression analyses produced similar results.


      Few US youth have blood mercury concentrations ≥5.8 μg/L, although more than half of US youth consumed seafood in the past month.

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