Exposure to total and methylmercury among pregnant women in Suriname: sources and public health implications

J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2021 Feb;31(1):117-125. doi: 10.1038/s41370-020-0233-3. Epub 2020 May 28.


Previous research has found that women and children living in rural, interior communities in Suriname have high concentrations of mercury in hair. Freshwater fish from these areas also have high concentrations of mercury. Artisanal and small-scale gold mining operations in parts of the country use elemental mercury to extract gold from soils and sediments. Total mercury and methylmercury concentrations have been determined in hair and blood from pregnant women across the country. Pregnant women from interior communities have significantly higher concentrations of both total and methylmercury in hair (median total mercury in hair 3.64 µg/g) compared with pregnant women from two urban coastal cities, Paramaribo (0.63 µg/g) and Nickerie (0.74 µg/g). Total and methylmercury concentrations in blood and hair are highly correlated (r = 0.986, r = 0.974) with methylmercury making up 86% of the total in blood and 97% of the total in hair. Most women in the interior regions rely heavily on local fish as part of their regular diet, and many live outsides of areas with active ASGM operations. This study demonstrates that diet and fish consumption largely govern mercury exposures in pregnant women in Suriname.

Keywords: Fish; Gold mining; Mercury; Methylmercury; Neurodevelopment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Child
  • Cities
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis
  • Female
  • Fishes
  • Food Contamination
  • Gold
  • Humans
  • Mercury* / analysis
  • Methylmercury Compounds*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnant Women
  • Public Health
  • Suriname


  • Methylmercury Compounds
  • Gold
  • Mercury