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Journal of Marine Systems
Year: 2009  |  Volume: 75  |  Issue: 1-2  |  Page No.: 305 - 313

Heavy metals in edible seaweeds commercialised for human consumption

Victoria Besada, Jose Manuel Andrade, Fernando Schultze and Juan Jose Gonzalez    

Abstract: Though seaweed consumption is growing steadily across Europe, relatively few studies have reported on the quantities of heavy metals they contain and/or their potential effects on the population's health. This study focuses on the first topic and analyses the concentrations of six typical heavy metals (Cd, Pb, Hg, Cu, Zn, total As and inorganic As) in 52 samples from 11 algae-based products commercialised in Spain for direct human consumption (Gelidium spp.; Eisenia bicyclis; Himanthalia elongata; Hizikia fusiforme; Laminaria spp.; Ulva rigida; Chondrus crispus; Porphyra umbilicales and Undaria pinnatifida).

Samples were ground, homogenised and quantified by atomic absorption spectrometry (Cu and Zn by flame AAS; Cd, Pb and total As by electrothermal AAS; total mercury by the cold vapour technique; and inorganic As by flame-hydride generation). Accuracy was assessed by participation in periodic QUASIMEME (Quality Assurance of Information in Marine Environmental Monitoring in Europe) and IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) intercalibration exercises. To detect any objective differences existing between the seaweeds' metal concentrations, univariate and multivariate studies (principal component analysis, cluster analysis and linear discriminant analysis) were performed. It is concluded that the Hizikia fusiforme samples contained the highest values of total and inorganic As and that most Cd concentrations exceeded the French Legislation. The two harvesting areas (Atlantic and Pacific oceans) were differentiated using both univariate studies (for Cu, total As, Hg and Zn) and a multivariate discriminant function (which includes Zn, Cu and Pb).

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