Blood mercury levels and shark meat intake among workers in Gyeongsangbuk-do

Published on 27. June 2017

The associations between blood mercury levels and shark meat intake among workers in Gyeongsangbuk-do

Gun Il Park, Young Seok Byun, Man Joong Jeon, Joon Sakong



Shark meat is used as sacrificial food in Gyeongsangbuk-do, and is a major source of dietary mercury. This study aimed to evaluate the effects of shark meat intake or the ritual of Jesa on blood mercury levels within workers living in Gyeongsangbuk-do.


This study was conducted from September 2016 to October 2016 in two cities of Gyeongsangbuk-do. To compare the differences between urban and rural areas, two workplaces each in Daegu as the urban area and Yeongcheon as the rural area were selected. General characteristics and characteristics related to shark meat consumption of the workers were acquired by personal interviews during their health examination. Blood mercury concentrations were analyzed by the gold amalgamation method using a direct mercury analyzer (DMA-80; Milestone Inc., Shelton, CT, USA).


The shark consumption group had a higher blood mercury concentration than the non-consumption group. The levels of blood mercury increased with the frequency, annual intake, as well as most recent date of shark meat consumption. Moreover, the levels of mercury in blood increased according to the annual frequency of participation in Jesa (times per year) and the annual frequency of shark meat consumption during Jesa (times per year).


Shark meat intake and the ritual of Jesa contributed to an increase in the blood mercury levels of workers in Gyeongsangbuk-do. Therefore, it is necessary to evaluate dietary exposure, occupational as well as other factors that may influence blood mercury concentrations in workers during their health examination, particularly in regions with high mercury exposures.

Ann of Occup and Environ Med (2017) 29: 29. doi:10.1186/s40557-017-0185-9


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