Mercury Exposure Factors among Residents in the Highly Mercury Exposed Area, Seoksan-ri, Korea

수은 고노출지역 주민의 수은노출요인과 노출량 변화에 관한 연구

  • Received : 2015.10.05
  • Accepted : 2015.10.14
  • Published : 2015.10.28


Objectives: The 2007 Korea National Survey for Environmental Pollutants in the Human Body found the highest blood mercury levels nationwide among residents in Seoksan-ri, Goro-myeon, Gunwi-gun, Gyeonsangbuk-do. With the aim to reduce the blood mercury levels of residents in this region, we conducted this study to identify the association between mercury exposure levels and shark meat consumption. Methods: This survey was conducted with 118 participants in Seoksan-ri before the Chuseok festival and 113 residents were added afterwards. Information on participants was collected via questionnaires. Total mercury concentrations in biological samples were measured using a mercury analyzer with the gold-amalgam collection method. Results: To identify this, we conducted mercury exposure level analysis before and after the Chuseok festival and found that blood and urinary mercury levels after Chuseok (GM of $6.9{\mu}g/L$ in blood and $1.68{\mu}g/g$_cr in urine) were higher than those before (GM of $5.29{\mu}g/L$ in blood and $1.44{\mu}g/g$_cr in urine). This area maintains a custom of using shark meat as one of the ancestral rite foods, and the performance of such rites and shark meat consumption have been identified as main sources of mercury exposure. Other than this, smoking, dental amalgam treatment and residential period in the area also contributed to an increase in mercury exposure levels. On the other hand, recent consumption of oriental medicine and vaccination did not have a significant influence on mercury levels. Conclusion: The results were attributed to the local custom of consuming shark meat with high mercury concentrations during rituals taking place during the festival and ancestral rites. Given that the blood mercury levels in 23.2% of the residents exceeded the HBM II values recommended by the German Commission on Human Biological Monitoring, it is suggested that further appropriate actions and follow-up measures be taken to reduce the mercury exposure levels of the residents that exceeded the reference values.


Exposure factor;Mercury;Shark meat intake


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