Assessment of mercury in muscle of fish from Cartagena Bay, a tropical estuary at the north of Colombia

Int J Environ Health Res. 2009 Oct;19(5):343-55. doi: 10.1080/09603120902749090.


Fish belonging to several trophic levels from Cartagena Bay, a tropical estuary, were collected and analyzed for total mercury (T-Hg) concentrations in muscle. T-Hg concentrations varied from 0.010-0.526 microg/g, and the overall average was 0.051 +/- 0.002 microg/g. Carnivorous species presented the highest T-Hg mean value (0.100 +/- 0.006 microg/g), followed by omnivorous (0.076 +/- 0.014 microg/g) and detritivorous (0.028 +/- 0.001 microg/g). The relationships between weight and T-Hg content were found for the carnivorous species Sciades herzbergi (r = 0.508, p < 0.001) and not for the detritivorous Mugil incilis (r = 0.086, p = 0.207). Although results suggest fish from the bay pose a low health threat for humans in terms of Hg exposure, vulnerable groups such as pregnant women, should avoid eating large size carnivorous species. Knowledge about species with low Hg content should be widespread within fishing communities, guaranteeing adequate nutrition by including fish in the diet and reducing the risk of Hg poisoning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Colombia
  • Female
  • Fishes*
  • Food Chain
  • Food Contamination / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Mercury / analysis
  • Mercury / metabolism*
  • Mercury Poisoning / etiology
  • Mercury Poisoning / prevention & control
  • Pregnancy
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / metabolism*


  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Mercury