Mercury exposure in Ireland: Results of the DEMOCOPHES human biomonitoring study

Elizabeth Cullen*, David S. Evans, Fred Davidson, Padraig Burke, Damien Burns, Andrew Flanagan, Chris Griffin, Anne Kellegher, Rory Mannion, Maurice Mulcahy, Michael Ryan, Pierre Biot, Ludwine Casteleyn, Argelia Castaño, Jürgen Angerer, Holger M. Koch, Marta Esteban, Birgit K. Schindler, Carmen Navarro, Marike Kolossa-GehringUlrike Fiddicke, Greet Schoeters, Elly Den Hond, Ovnair Sepai, Karen Exley, Louis Bloemen, Lisbeth E. Knudsen, Reinhard Joas, Anke Joas, Dominique Aerts

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Monitoring of human exposure to mercury is important due to its adverse health effects. This study aimed to determine the extent of mercury exposure among mothers and their children in Ireland, and to identify factors associated with elevated levels. It formed part of the Demonstration of a study to Coordinate and Perform Human Biomonitoring on a European Scale (DEMOCOPHES) pilot biomonitoring study. Methods: Hair mercury concentrations were determined from a convenience sample of 120 mother/child pairs. Mothers also completed a questionnaire. Rigorous quality assurance within DEMOCOPHES guaranteed the accuracy and international comparability of results. Results: Mercury was detected in 79.2% of the samples from mothers, and 62.5% of children’s samples. Arithmetic mean levels in mothers (0.262 µg/g hair) and children (0.149 µg /g hair) did not exceed the US EPA guidance value. Levels were significantly higher for those with higher education, and those who consumed more fish. Conclusions: The study demonstrates the benefit of human biomonitoring for assessing and comparing internal exposure levels, both on a population and an individual basis. It enables the potential harmful impact of mercury to be minimised in those highly exposed, and can therefore significantly contribute to population health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9760-9775
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 17 Sep 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Exposure
  • Hair
  • Human biomonitoring
  • Mercury


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