Elemental and radioactive analysis of commercially available seaweed

Sci Total Environ. 2000 Jun 8;255(1-3):169-75. doi: 10.1016/s0048-9697(00)00467-8.


Edible seaweed products have been used in many countries, specifically Japan, as a food item. Recently these products have become popular in the food industry because of a number of interesting medicinal properties that have been associated with certain edible marine algae. Very little control exists over the composition of these products, which could be contaminated with a number of agents including heavy metals and certain radioactive isotopes. Fifteen seaweed samples (six local samples from the coast of British Columbia, seven from Japan, one from Norway and one undisclosed) were obtained. All samples were analyzed for multiple elements, using ICP mass spectrometry and for radioactive constituents. It was found that six of eight imported seaweed products had concentrations of mercury orders of magnitude higher than the local products. Lead was found at somewhat higher concentrations in only one local product. Laminaria japonica had the highest level of iodine content followed by Laminaria setchellii from local sources. Only traces of cesium-137 were found in a product from Norway and radium-226 was found in a product from Japan. Arsenic levels were found to be elevated. In order to estimate the effect of these levels on health, one needs to address the bioavailability and the speciation of arsenic in these samples.

MeSH terms

  • British Columbia
  • Food Contamination / analysis*
  • Food, Organic / analysis
  • Japan
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Metals / analysis*
  • Norway
  • Radioisotopes / analysis*
  • Seaweed / chemistry*
  • Trace Elements / analysis*


  • Metals
  • Radioisotopes
  • Trace Elements