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Total dietary intake of mercury in the Canary Islands, Spain

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Estimating the risk associated with dietary intake of heavy metals by consumers is a vital and integral part of regulatory processes. The assessment of exposure to mercury shown in this paper has been performed by means of a study on the whole diet. Total mercury (Hg) levels were determined by cold vapour atomic absorption spectrometry (AAS) in 420 samples of regularly consumed food and drink. The total Hg concentrations measured in the different groups of food ranged from non-detectable to 119 µg kg-1 w/w. The fish group had the highest concentrations of total Hg. All groups of food with regulated Hg content showed levels that were lower than the legally set values. The food consumption data used in the analysis were taken from the latest nutritional survey made in the Canary Islands, Spain. The estimated total Hg intake of local population (5.7 µg/person day-1) did not exceed the provisional tolerable weekly intake (PTWI) limit of 0.3 mg week-1 of total mercury (43 µg/person day-1) fixed by the Joint Food and Agricultural Organization/World Health Organization (FAO/WHO) Expert Committee on Food Additives. Fishery products contributed 96% of the total Hg intake. The mean Hg intake for each island in this archipelago, formed by seven, has also been calculated. Fuerteventura, Lanzarote and El Hierro are the islands with the highest level of Hg intake (7.0, 7,0 and 6.1 µg/person day-1, respectively). La Palma Island, due to its low fish consumption, had the lowest level of Hg intake (4.5 µg/person day-1), followed by La Gomera (5.4 µg/person day-1), Tenerife (5.5 µg/person day-1) and Gran Canaria (5.6 µg/person day-1). A comparison has been made of the results obtained in this study with those found for other national and international communities.
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Keywords: atomic absorption spectrometry (AAS)-cold vapour; dietary intake, Canary Islands (Spain); mercury

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Toxicology, University of La Laguna, La Laguna, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain 2: Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, University of La Laguna, La Laguna, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain

Publication date: August 1, 2008

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