Mercury (Hg) is a well-known toxicant that can affect children's neurodevelopment. This study attempted to evaluate the internal dose of Hg in hair and fingernails and external Hg exposure from dietary consumption in 283 pairs of mothers and their children aged under 6 years in Taiwan. Mean Hg levels in hair and fingernail samples were 1.07 ± 0.67 and 0.42 ± 0.34 μg/g for mothers, and 1.11 ± 1.22 and 0.36 ± 0.26 μg/g for children, respectively. Our results showed that 42% of mothers and 41% of children had hair Hg levels exceeding the US Environmental Protection Agency recommended value of 1 μg/g. Hg exposure in children was greater than that of their mothers. Estimated daily intake (EDI) levels of Hg among preschool children were 3.3-times higher than those of their mothers. A sensitivity analysis indicated that fish consumption was the main potential factor of Hg exposure among both mothers and their children. External Hg exposure using estimated daily dietary ingestion by mothers was a surrogate for internal hair Hg concentrations. However, poor correlations were found between EDI Hg levels and hair Hg levels among children aged 4–6 years. Exposure sources from food and other media, such as soil and dust, need to be considered to arrive at more-valid risk assessments for younger children's exposure to Hg. Children of mothers who did not have food safety-related risk perceptions or protective behaviors had significantly higher hair Hg concentrations compared to children whose mothers had risk perceptions and protective behaviors. Hg exposure of women of childbearing age and preschool children in Taiwan is still an area of great concern. Providing food safety information and risk-benefits of fish consumption for mothers may avoid harm to the developing nervous systems of their children.
- Daily dietary mercury exposure
- Food safety-related risk perceptions
- Protective behavior
- Risk assessment
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Science(all)