1 in 4 NYC adults has elevated blood mercury levels

A quarter of adult New Yorkers have elevated blood mercury levels, according to survey results released today by the Health Department, and the elevations are closely tied to fish consumption. Asian and higher-income New Yorkers eat more fish, and have higher average mercury levels, than others both locally and nationally. These mercury levels pose little if any health risk for most adults, but may increase the risk of cognitive delays for children whose mothers had very high mercury levels during pregnancy.

Major Findings on Blood Mercury Levels from NYC-HANES

Todays findings are the latest presented from New York Citys Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NYC-HANES), the first such survey ever conducted by a U.S. city. Its possible that other cities have similarly high levels, or higher ones, but havent yet documented them. Because mercury is a concern for the health of newborns, recommendations on mercury exposure are most important for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

  • Among women 20-49 years old in New York City, the average blood mercury level is 2.64 g/L (micrograms per liter), three times that of similarly-aged women nationally (0.83 g/L).

  • Approximately one quarter of New York City women in this age group have a blood mercury level at or above 5 g/L, the New York State reportable level.

  • People who eat fish three or fewer times each week have, on average, levels of mercury below the reportable level, while average readings exceed the reportable level among those who eat fish four or more times.

  • Higher-income New Yorkers have higher mercury levels; New Yorkers in the highest income bracket average 3.6 g/L, compared to 2.4 g/L among the lowest income group.

  • Average blood mercury levels are considerably higher among New York City Asian women (4.1 g/L); nearly half (45%) have blood mercury levels at or above the State reportable level.


Contact: Sara Markt
New York City Health Department

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