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NYC-HANES finds elevated mercury levels in a quarter of NYC adults

A quarter of adult New Yorkers have elevated blood mercury levels, according to survey results released July 23, 2007, 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.

The findings are the latest presented from New York City's Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NYC-HANES), the first such survey ever conducted by a U.S. city. It's possible that other cities have similarly high levels, or higher ones, but haven't 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.

The NYC-HANES is modeled after the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics for more than 35 years.