Hair mercury levels in relation to fish consumption in a community of the Moroccan Mediterranean coast

Food Addit Contam. 2007 Nov;24(11):1236-46. doi: 10.1080/02652030701329611.


Coastal populations with high seafood consumption in the Mediterranean have a significant exposure to dietary methylmercury, and areas where environmental mercury pollution is an issue due to industrial activities are of special concern. The study was undertaken with the aim of assessing methylmercury exposure through fish consumption in a community of north Morocco and characterizing the relevant health risk. Concentrations of total mercury were determined in human hair, a biomarker of methylmercury exposure, and in locally consumed fish by cold vapour atomic absorption spectrophotometry. Based on consumption frequencies reported by the 108 subjects included in the study the weekly intake of methylmercury was estimated and biomarker data were evaluated in relation to the estimated intake and the sociodemographic characteristics of the population. Multiple regression analysis was employed for the interpretation of hair mercury data in relation to fish consumption frequency, gender and the age of individuals. Mercury concentrations in hair ranged from 0.22 to 9.56 microg g(-1) (geometric mean = 1.79 microg g(-1)) and were closely related to fish intake. Fisherman and their families consumed fish three to five times per week and were the most exposed population subgroup. A high proportion of women of child-bearing age (50%) had relatively high levels of mercury in their hair (3.08-7.88 microg g(-1)).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Child
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Fishes / metabolism
  • Food Contamination / analysis*
  • Hair / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mercury / administration & dosage
  • Mercury / analysis*
  • Middle Aged
  • Morocco
  • Risk Assessment / methods
  • Seafood / analysis*
  • Sex Factors


  • Biomarkers
  • Mercury