Using carbon and nitrogen stable isotope modelling to assess dietary mercury exposure for pregnant women in Baja California Sur, Mexico Academic Article uri icon


  • INTRODUCTION: Previous studies of mercury (Hg) in pregnant women in the area of La Paz, Baja California Sur (BCS), Mexico found a proportion of individuals had concentrations of total Hg ([THg]) above some thresholds of concern set by health agencies. The [THg] were associated with fish and seafood consumption as well as other factors; although it was unclear which marine diet items could potentially be contributing to the concentrations observed. METHOD: We examined [THg] and monomethylmercury concentration ([MeHg+]) in the archived hair of 70 pregnant women from BCS as well as in diet items including fish, shellfish, and staple items (rice, beans, corn, and flour). We measured stable isotopes of carbon and nitrogen and employed a Bayesian stable isotope mixing model to investigate the proportion of fish and seafood in the isotopic profiles of archived hair samples. RESULTS: Concentrations of Hg species were low in staple foods and ranged from below detection limit to 5.71 parts per billion (ppb) wet weight. In hair, geometric mean [THg] was 658 ppb and [MeHg+] was 395 ppb, which were lower than previous reports. Percent MeHg+ was positively correlated with higher δ15N values. CONCLUSIONS: The largest carbon contributors to the diet of the study participants were corn and rice, and our analysis of fish contribution to diet varyingly agreed with the self-reported fish consumption. This report highlights the ability to discriminate potential sources of Hg from a diverse diet and the limitations of dietary recall studies.

author list (cited authors)

  • Harley, J., Gaxiola-Robles, R., Zenteno-Savín, T., Méndez-Rodríguez, L. C., Bencomo-Alvarez, A. E., Thiede, A., & O'Hara, T. M.

citation count

  • 2

publication date

  • June 2019