Methylmercury Risk Assessment Based on European Human Biomonitoring Data

2022-07-28

A risk assessment (RA) was conducted to estimate the risk associated with methylmercury (MeHg) exposure of vulnerable European populations, using Human Biomonitoring (HBM) data. This RA was performed integrating published data from European HBM surveys and earlier EFSA approaches (EFSA 2012). Children/adolescents (3 to 17 years old) and women of childbearing age (18 to 50 years old) were selected as relevant study population groups for this RA. Two types of HBM datasets were selected: HBM studies (n = 18) with mercury (Hg) levels (blood and hair, total Hg and/or MeHg) in the general population in different EU countries and the DEMOCOPHES harmonized study in child-mother pairs (hair, total Hg) in 17 EU countries as a reference. Two approaches were included in the RA strategy: the first one was based on estimations of the fraction of children/adolescents and women of childbearing age, respectively, from the EU general population exceeding the HBM-I value established by the German Human Biomonitoring Commission, measured as Hazard Quotients (HQ); and the second approach was based on estimations of the fraction of the two population groups exceeding the Tolerable Weekly Intake (TWI) (or their equivalent to Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI)) defined by EFSA in 2012. The HQ approach showed that for both groups, the risk varies across EU countries and that some EU areas are close to or exceeding the exposure guidance values. This is the case of Spain and Portugal, which showed the highest HQ (GM and/or P95), probably due to their higher fish consumption. Results from the EFSA approach show that hair values of children/adolescents and women of childbearing age (both in selected HBM studies and in DEMOCOPHES study) are below the TDI of 1.9 µg/g; therefore, in general, the European population does not exceed the daily average/intake dose for MeHg and/or Hg. A possible risk underestimation was identified in our assessment since for many studies no data on P95 were available, causing loss of relevant information for risk characterization on the upper bound. In addition, data from other European countries also with high seafood consumption, such as France, Greece or Iceland, were not available. For this reason, further RA refinement is needed with harmonized and more widespread HBM data to account for differences in European exposure and associated risks, so that interventions to protect vulnerable citizens, can be applied.

Authors: Noelia Domínguez-Morueco, Susana Pedraza-Díaz, María Del Carmen González-Caballero, Marta Esteban-López, Mercedes de Alba-González, Andromachi Katsonouri, Tiina Santonen, Ana Cañas-Portilla, Argelia Castaño
; Full Source: Toxics 2022 Jul 28;10(8):427. doi: 10.3390/toxics10080427.