Recent reports of elevated levels of methylmercury (MeHg) in rice revealed the possible occurrence of MeHg in infant rice cereals, leading to potential MeHg exposure through cereal consumption. Total mercury (THg) and MeHg levels in 119 infant cereal samples commonly marketed in the United States and China and estimated daily intake of MeHg through cereal consumption were determined. Concentrations of THg and MeHg in the tested cereal samples ranged from 0.35 to 15.9 μg/kg and from 0.07 to 13.9 μg/kg with means of 2.86 and 1.61 μg/kg, respectively. Rice-based cereals contained MeHg levels significantly higher than those of nonrice cereals, indicating that MeHg in rice could be source of MeHg in cereals. Cereal consumption could be a potential pathway of MeHg exposure for infants, as the EDI through cereal consumption amounted to 4-122% of the MeHg reference dose, suggesting the necessity of further evaluation of the potential health risk of dietary MeHg exposure to infants.
Keywords: dietary exposure; health risk; methylmercury; reference daily dose; rice cereal.