Factors associated with high mercury levels in women and girls from the Mojana region, Colombia, 2013–2015

Sonia Mireya Diaz, Ruth Marien Palma, Maria Nathalia Muñoz, Carolina Becerra-Arias, Julián Alfredo Fernández Niño

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Women are primarily exposed to mercury through the consumption of fish contaminated by gold mining activities. The main systems affected are the central nervous and renal systems, although effects on the reproductive system have also been found. Objective: To explore the relationship between mercury levels in women and their possible sources of contamination. A cross-sectional study was conducted from 2013 to 2015 with women residing in 11 municipalities in La Mojana, Colombia, using non-random sampling. Standardized instruments were used to identify sociodemographic characteristics, mercury use, mining-related activities, water and fish consumption, and other factors. Blood, urine, and hair samples were taken to quantify mercury levels. A logistic regression model was used to identify factors associated with elevated mercury values in the participants’ samples. A total of 428 women were included, with an average age of 36.7 ± 16.7 years, 3.3% of whom were pregnant at the time of the survey and 8.4% of whom were exposed occupationally. High levels of mercury were present in 62.8% of the women, in any one of the three samples processed. Those exposed occupationally and environmentally had similar values (p = 0.821). Frequency of fish consumption and source of drinking water were associated with higher levels of mercury (p < 0.05).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1827
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 2 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Exposure
  • Fish
  • Mercury
  • Metal
  • Women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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