Fish Selenium Health Benefit Values in Mercury Risk Management

EPA Grant Number: R834792
Title: Fish Selenium Health Benefit Values in Mercury Risk Management
Investigators: Ralston, Nicholas V.C. , Raymond, Laura
Institution: University of North Dakota
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Project Period: April 1, 2011 through March 31, 2013 (Extended to March 31, 2015)
Project Amount: $490,089
RFA: Exploring Linkages Between Health Outcomes and Environmental Hazards, Exposures, and Interventions for Public Health Tracking and Risk Management (2009) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Air Quality and Air Toxics , Health


Current advisories intended to limit methylmercury (MeHg) exposures from eating fish are resulting in unintended avoidance of fish consumption. This may be because fish consumption warnings that are based on the amounts of MeHg present in the fish omit consideration of beneficial nutrients that are also present. Based on the current understanding of the molecular mechanism of MeHg toxicity, the molar ratios of selenium (Se) and MeHg present in seafoods and freshwater fish must both be integrated into Hg risk assessments. Through prior U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-funded research, the Se-Health Benefit Value (Se-HBV) was developed as an indicator of fish consumption safety. This proposed safety criterion appears to be a more reliable predictive index of risks and benefits of fish consumption than those based on MeHg exposures alone.


This project will extend development of a reliable indicator of MeHg risk in order to provide a critical link between Hg exposures and the safety of fish consumption.


Working with publically available data sets, this project will integrate existing data to assess the Se-HBV of commonly consumed fish types and trends based on these previously obtained Hg and Se values. In Specific Aim 1, we will access, evaluate, calculate, and establish Se-HBVs for ocean fish, identifying and quantifying distinctions that may exist between fish originating from the Atlantic, Pacific, or the Gulf of Mexico. In Specific Aim 2, we will compile data obtained from freshwater fish and GIS mapping in order to evaluate, calculate, and establish Se-HBVs across the continental United States. In Specific Aim 3, we will enhance the computational Physiologically Oriented Interactions of Nutrients and Toxins (POINT) model to further define the biological responses associated with Hg–Se interactions at the molecular, cellular, and organ tissue levels observed in animal and human epidemiological studies.

Expected Results:

The Se-HBV criterion will result in an improved understanding of the health benefits and risks of fish consumption that can be used to eliminate confusion and misunderstandings of seafood safety issues.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 25 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 5 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Risk management, ecological effects, marine, estuary, bioavailability, metabolism, vulnerability, sensitive populations, dose-response, susceptibility, aquatic,

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2011 Progress Report
  • 2012 Progress Report
  • 2013 Progress Report
  • Final Report