Total arsenic, mercury, lead, and cadmium contents were determined in 426 samples of seaweed sold in Korea in 2007-08. The average concentrations, expressed in mg kg(-1), dry weight, were: total arsenic 17.4 (less than the limit of detection [LOD] to 88.8), Hg 0.01 (from 0.001 to 0.050), lead 0.7 (less than the LOD to 2.7), and cadmium 0.50 (less than the LOD to 2.9). There were differences in mercury, cadmium, and arsenic content in seaweed between different kinds of products and between coastal areas. The intakes of total mercury, lead, and cadmium for Korean people from seaweed were estimated to be 0.11, 0.65, and 0.45 µg kg(-1) body weight week(-1), respectively. With respect to food safety, consumption of 8.5 g day(-1) of the samples analysed could represent up to 0.2-6.7% of the respective provisional tolerable weekly intakes established by the World Health Organization (WHO). Therefore, even if Korean people have a high consumption of seaweed, this study confirms the low probability of health risks from these metals via seaweed consumption.
Keywords: Inductively coupled plasma (ICP); arsenic; cadmium; lead; mercury; metals analysis; risk assessment; seafood.