Distributions and determinants of mercury concentrations in toenails among American young adults: The CARDIA Trace Element Study

Pengcheng Xun, Kiang Liu, J. Steve Morris, Joanne M. Jordan, Ka He*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Since data on mercury (Hg) levels in Caucasians and African Americans (AAs) of both genders are lacking, this study aims to present toenail Hg distributions and explore the potential determinants using data from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Trace Element Study. Data from 4,344 Americans, aged 20-32 in 1987, recruited from Oakland, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Birmingham were used to measure toenail Hg levels by instrumental neutron-activation method. The Hg distribution was described with selected percentiles and geometric means. Multivariable linear regression (MLR) was used to examine potential determinants of Hg levels within ethnicity-gender subgroups. The geometric mean of toenail Hg was 0. 212 (95 % CI = 0. 207-0. 218) μg/g. Hg levels varied geographically with Oakland the highest [0. 381 (0. 367-0. 395) μg/g] and Minneapolis the lowest [0. 140 (0. 134-0. 147) μg/g]. MLR analyses showed that male gender and AA ethnicity were negatively associated with toenail Hg levels, and that age, living in Oakland city, education level, alcohol consumption, and total fish intake were positively associated with toenail Hg concentrations within each ethnicity-gender subgroup. Current smokers were found to have higher Hg only in AA men. This study suggested age, gender, ethnicity, study center, alcohol, education level, and fish consumption consistently predict toenail Hg levels. As fish consumption was the key determinant, avoiding certain types of fish that have relatively high Hg levels may be crucial in reducing Hg intake.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1423-1430
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2013


  • American young adults
  • Determinants
  • Distribution
  • Ethnicity
  • Mercury
  • Toenail

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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