Korea National Survey for Environmental Pollutants in the Human Body 2008: Heavy metals in the blood or urine of the Korean population

Jong Wha Lee, Chae Kwan Lee, Chan Seok Moon, In Ja Choi, Kee Jae Lee, Seung Muk Yi, Bong Ki Jang, Byoung jun Yoon, Dae Seon Kim, Domyung Peak, Donggeun Sul, Eunha Oh, Hosub Im, Hee Sook Kang, Jeoung Hee Kim, Jong Tae Lee, Kisok Kim, Kyung Lyoul Park, Ryoungme Ahn, Seok Hwan ParkSeong Cheon Kim, Choong Hee Park, Jin Heon Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

136 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Recently, there have been several nationwide episodes involving imported toys contaminated with toxic metals and environmental hormones. In addition, cadmium intoxication has occurred due to soil contamination with cadmium from abandoned metal mines. Objectives: To investigate the distribution, extent and factors influencing the levels of toxic metals in the blood or urine of the Korean general population over twenty years of age, we studied the blood or urine concentrations of heavy metals in a representative sample of 5087 Koreans in 2008. Methods: Multiple biological substrates were collected from each participant to determine the most suitable samples for an environmental health survey system. Information regarding exposure conditions of all subjects was collected by questionnaire-based interviews. Results: The geometric means of the blood lead, mercury and manganese levels were 19.1, 3.23 and 10.8. μg/L, respectively. The geometric means of urinary arsenic and cadmium concentrations were 43.5 and 0.65. μg/L, respectively. Blood mercury and urinary arsenic levels in the Korean general population were significantly higher than in European and American populations. Conclusions: The higher levels of blood mercury and urinary arsenic could be explained by the greater seafood consumption among the Korean population. This biomonitoring study of blood or urine heavy metals in the Korean general population provides important reference data stratified by demographic and lifestyle factors that will be useful for the ongoing surveillance of environmental exposure of Koreans to toxic metals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449-457
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Jul

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by National Institute of Environmental Research of Korea , as “Korea National Survey for Environmental Pollutants in Human Body 2008”.


  • Arsenic
  • Cadmium
  • Korean
  • Lead
  • Manganese
  • Mercury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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