Methylmercury Exposure and Adverse Cardiovascular Effects in Faroese Whaling Men

Anna L. Chop, Pál Magni Weihe, Esben Budtz-Jørgensen, Poul J. Jørgensen, Jukka T. Salonen, Tomi-Pekka Tuomainen, Katsuyuki Murata, Hans Petur Nielsen, Maria Skaalum Petersen, Jórun Askham, Philippe Grandjean

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

176 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Methylmercury (MeHg), a worldwide contaminant found in fish and seafood, has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular mortality.

Objective
We examined 42 Faroese whaling men (30–70 years of age) to assess possible adverse effects within a wide range of MeHg exposures from consumption of pilot whale meat.

Methods
We assessed exposure levels from mercury analysis of toenails and whole blood (obtained at the time of clinical examination), and a hair sample collected 7 years previously. Outcome measures included heart rate variability (HRV), blood pressure (BP), common carotid intima-media thickness (IMT), and brainstem auditory evoked potentials (BAEP). We carried out multiple regression and structural equation model (SEM) analyses to determine the confounder-adjusted effect of mercury exposure. Taking into account correlations among related measures, we categorized exposure and outcomes in groups to derive latent exposure and response variables in SEMs. We used multiple regression analysis to compare the predictive validity of individual exposure biomarkers and the latent exposure variable on individual and latent outcomes.

Results
The toenail mercury concentrations varied widely and had a geometric mean of 2.0 μg/g; hair concentrations averaged about 3-fold higher. Mercury exposure was significantly associated with increased BP and IMT. This effect was reflected by SEMs, but mercury in toenails tended to be the best effect predictor.

Conclusions
The results support the notion that increased MeHg exposure promotes the development of cardiovascular disease.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Health Perspectives
Volume117
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2009

Keywords

  • cardiovascular physiology
  • evoked potentials
  • food contamination
  • methylmercury
  • neurotoxicity
  • pilot whale
  • seafood

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