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Relationship between Total Mercury Concentration and Fish Size in Two Pelagic Fish Species: Implications for Consumer Health

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Total mercury concentrations were determined in different size classes of two pelagic fish species of great commercial importance, horse mackerel (Trachurus trachurus) and Mediterranean horse mackerel (Trachurus mediterraneus), to evaluate the relationship between total mercury concentration and fish size and to determine whether any differences might affect the quantitative assessment of mercury exposure for consumers. Mercury concentrations in horse mackerel and in Mediterranean horse mackerel were between 0.16 and 2.41 μg g−1 of weight wet (mean, 0.68 μg g−1) and between 0.09 and 1.62 μg g−1 (mean, 0.51 μg g−1), respectively. The regression curves revealed a significant relationship between mercury concentration and fish size (length and weight) for both species. Concentrations exceeding the proposed limit for human consumption were observed in 33.3% of the samples of both species and were associated with larger specimens. The consumption of the larger specimens could lead to an increase in mercury exposure for consumers. Estimated weekly intakes, calculated on the basis of concentrations relative to each size class, revealed a high exposure associated with the consumption of fish larger than 30 cm (horse mackerel, 11.63 to 20.16 μg/kg of body weight; Mediterranean horse mackerel, 5.86 to 13.55 μg/kg of body weight). An understanding of the factors leading to an increase in mercury exposure can help consumers make informed decisions about eating fish.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Pharmacological-Biological Department, Chemistry and Biochemistry Section, Veterinary Medicine Faculty, University of Bari, Strada Provinciale per Casamassima km 3, 70010 Valenzano, Bari, Italy 2: Comparative Biomedical Sciences Department, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Section, Veterinary Medicine Faculty, University of Teramo, Piazza Aldo Moro 45, 64100 Teramo, Italy

Publication date: June 1, 2006

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