Blood mercury concentration, fish consumption and anthropometry in Chinese children: A national study

Environ Int. 2018 Jan;110:14-21. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2017.08.016. Epub 2017 Nov 4.


Objective: This study sought to obtain national cross-sectional data for blood mercury levels and risk factors for mercury exposure in Chinese children aged 0 to 6years to provide evidence to support preventive measures for reducing childhood blood mercury levels.

Methods: A multi-stage, stratified, clustered random sampling survey was conducted May 2013-Mar 2015. Shanghai, Jilin, Shanxi, Guangdong, Qinghai, Yunnan and Hubei, which are located in seven different geographical regions in China, were selected as the study field. A total of 14,202 children aged 0-6years participated in the study. Whole-blood venous samples (3ml) were collected from the subjects for mercury exposure assessment. The DMA-80 was applied for mercury detection, and a health questionnaire gathering information on related confounders was completed by the subjects' parents of the subjects after they received guidance from the investigators. A general linear model was used for the primary descriptive statistical analysis. Odds ratios (ORs) and 95%CIs for the risk factors were estimated using unconditional logistic regression.

Results: A total of 14,202 eligible samples were collected. The mean mercury level was 1.39μg/L. Other results were as follows: median 1.23μg/L, p25 0.86μg/L, p75 1.73μg/L, and GM 1.10μg/L. Of the seven geographical regions, Qinghai, in northwestern China, had a median mercury level of 0.37μg/L, which was significantly lower than the mercury level in Guangdong, in southeastern China (2.01μg/L). The median blood mercury level of children in suburban areas was 1.34μg/L, which was remarkably higher than that of children in rural areas (1.09μg/L). Dichotomous subgroups were generated using the median mercury concentration. Unconditional logistic regression analysis revealed that fish consumption may contribute to increased blood mercury levels (p<0.05). Additionally, we observed significantly positive associations between mercury concentrations and the children's anthropometric characteristics (BMI; p<0.05).

Conclusions: Blood mercury concentrations among Chinese children aged 0-6years were considered low, and children who consumed more marine fish, freshwater fish and shellfish tended to have higher mercury concentrations. Our study suggests that children's growth is likely affected by the positive effects of mercury, which may have implications concerning the positive effects of fish consumption.

Keywords: Anthropometry; Blood mercury concentration; Children; Fish consumption.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anthropometry
  • Body Height*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Fishes
  • Food Contamination*
  • Fresh Water
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Maximum Allowable Concentration
  • Mercury / blood*
  • Risk Factors
  • Seafood / analysis*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Mercury