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J Prev Med Public Health. 2017 Nov;50(6):377-385. English. Original Article.
Choi J , Bae S , Lim H , Lim JA , Lee YH , Ha M , Kwon HJ .
Department of Preventive Medicine, Dankook University College of Medicine, Cheonan, Korea.
Republic of Korea Army Headquarters, Gyeryong, Korea.


Although mercury (Hg) exposure is known to be neurotoxic in humans, its effects on liver function have been less often reported. The aim of this study was to investigate whether total Hg exposure in Korean adults was associated with elevated serum levels of the liver enzymes aspartate aminotransferase (AST), alanine transaminase (ALT), and gamma-glutamyltransferase (GGT).


We repeatedly examined the levels of total Hg and liver enzymes in the blood of 508 adults during 2010-2011 and 2014-2015. Cross-sectional associations between levels of blood Hg and liver enzymes were analyzed using a generalized linear model, and nonlinear relationships were analyzed using a generalized additive mixed model. Generalized estimating equations were applied to examine longitudinal associations, considering the correlations of individuals measured repeatedly.


GGT increased by 11.0% (95% confidence interval [CI], 4.5 to 18.0%) in women and 8.1% (95% CI, -0.5 to 17.4%) in men per doubling of Hg levels, but AST and ALT were not significantly associated with Hg in either men or women. In women who drank more than 2 or 3 times per week, AST, ALT, and GGT levels increased by 10.6% (95% CI, 4.2 to 17.5%), 7.7% (95% CI, 1.1 to 14.7%), and 37.5% (95% CI,15.2 to 64.3%) per doubling of Hg levels, respectively, showing an interaction between blood Hg levels and drinking.


Hg exposure was associated with an elevated serum concentration of GGT. Especially in women who were frequent drinkers, AST, ALT, and GGT showed a significant increase, with a significant synergistic effect of Hg and alcohol consumption.

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