Human exposure to mercury and mercury compounds remains a serious concern to health professionals and public health scientists worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) has been specifically concerned with preventing the adverse human health effects of mercury exposures, particularly for the fetus and child.
Environmental Health Criteria 1: Mercury, published in 1976, examined the effects of mercury on human health; Environmental Health Criteria 101: Methylmercury was published in 1990 and Environmental Health Criteria 118: Inorganic mercury was published in 1991. The evaluation of human health risks from methylmercury in food has been carried out on numerous occasions by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and World Health Organization Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA). The most recent evaluation occurred at the sixty-seventh meeting in 2006. The Committee re-evaluated inorganic mercury in 2010. The WHO Environmental Burden of Disease Series (No. 16) assessed the effects of human exposures to mercury at local and national levels in 2008. During the past 10 years, a large body of knowledge on mercury exposure has accumulated. This document focuses on the sources and routes of childhood mercury exposure and methods of assessing mercury exposure.