Dietary exposure and risk assessment of mercury from the Korean total diet study.
As a national project, obtaining information on the amount of heavy metal exposure of individuals through food intake is an important basic parameter for risk assessment. This study was conducted to evaluate dietary exposure levels and various risks from mercury (Hg) in Korean foods. In total, 342 samples comprising 114 food items were collected and then cooked prior to analysis. As found by Hg analysis, the mean content of metal in the fish and shellfish group was highest among the 15 Korean food groups. The total daily amount of Hg intake from typical Korean foods was 2.40 microg/person/d. The daily amount (microg/person/d) of Hg intake from each food group was 0.155 in grains and cereals, 0.008 potatoes and starch, 0.005 sugars and sweets, 0.0093 pulses, 0.0018 nuts and seeds, 0.203 vegetables, 0.027 fruits, 0.021 meats and poultry, 0.004 eggs, 1.826 fish and shellfish, 0.022 seaweed, 0.043 milk and dairy products, 0.008 oils and fats, 0.042 beverages, and 0.023 seasonings. The fish and shellfish group contributed most to total dietary intake at 76%. For risk assessment, probable daily intake (PDI) was calculated and compared with provisional tolerable weekly intake (PTWI) of the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA). The level of Hg intake through fish and shellfish of 0.001 mg/kg body weight bw/wk corresponded to 4.54% of the PTWI value of 0.005 mg/kg bw/wk, the safety standard for JECFA. The level of Hg intake through selected foods from the Food list for Koreans was 0.001 mg/kg bw/wk, corresponding to 5.95% of PTWI value. Therefore, overall intake was at levels below the recommended JECFA levels. The relative gender Hg hazard from Korean foods was 6.26% and 5.5% for males and females, respectively. The relative age Hg hazard from Korean foods was, 8.9% in those 3-6 yr old, 6.7% in those 7-12 yr old, 5.2% in those 13-19 yr old, 5.9% in those 20-29 yr old, 6.3% in those 30-49 yr old, 5.6% in those ages 50-64 yr, and 3.7% in the group of those over 65 yr of age. Relative regional Hg hazard from Korean foods was 6.3% in urban versus 5.5% in rural areas. Thus, the amount of Hg intake through consumption of Korean foods was found to be at a relatively safe level. These data may be thus used to establish safety standards for fish and shellfish consumption.