Integrated assessment of infant exposure to persistent organic pollutants and mercury via dietary intake in a central western Mediterranean site (Menorca Island)


In this research the levels of organochlorine compounds (OCs) and mercury (Hg) in several food items from Menorca Island were presented. The dietary exposure assessment was performed in children population from the island. Finally, body burden of OCs and Hg in these infants were associated with their dietary intakes of the selected food items. The dietary exposure to persistent pollutants by children population from Menorca Island was assessed. The concentrations of 11 organochlorine pesticides, 6 polychlorinated biphenils (PCBs) and 1 inorganic toxic element, Hg, were determined in 46 food samples that included fish, shellfish, meat, fruit, vegetables, cheese and eggs, which were acquired in local markets and department stores in the Menorca Island. The most contaminated food items were fish and shellfish, followed by meat and cheese products. OC levels were similar or lower than in other previous studies. However, 66% of the analysed fish and shellfish species for Hg exceeded the human consumption safety limits according to the European Union Legislation. Pollutant data from food was combined with the pattern of consumption of these foodstuffs in order to calculate the estimated daily intake (EDI) of these contaminants. According to our results, fish and fruit were the main sources of OCs to the EDIs (contributing to 37% and 29%, respectively) while fish and shellfish were the main sources of Hg (76% and 17%). The estimated EDIs of OCs were well below to the reported FAO/WHO Tolerable Intakes. However, estimated weekly intake of Hg would exceed the Provisional Tolerable Weekly Intake indicated by EFSA in the case that the only fish and seafood source would be from the central western Mediterranean. Direct associations between fish/shellfish consumption and hair concentrations of Hg and fish and meat consumption and 4,4’-DDT concentrations in venous serum in the Menorcan children were observed.

Environmental Research


  • The levels of the organochlorine compounds in the Menorcan food items were low.
  • Mercury was above the EU recommendations in 66% of the analysed seafood samples.
  • Fish/shellfish consumption was related with the Hg levels in hair of children.
  • 4,4’-DDT in serum of children was related to fish and meat consumption.
  • The Hg weekly intake of Menorcan children exceeded more than twice the EFSA limits.