Human health risks associated with the consumption of metal-contaminated fish over extended periods have become a concern particularly in Taiwan, where fish is consumed on a large scale. This study applied the interaction-based hazard index (HI) to assess the mixture health risks for fishers and non-fishers who consume the arsenic (As), copper (Cu), and zinc (Zn) contaminated milkfish from As-contaminated coastal areas in Taiwan, taking into account joint toxic actions and potential toxic interactions. We showed that the interactions of As–Zn and Cu–Zn were antagonistic, whereas As–Cu interaction was additive. We found that HI estimates without interactions considered were 1.3–1.6 times higher than interactive HIs. Probability distributions of HI estimates for non-fishers were less than 1, whereas all 97.5%-tile HI estimates for fishers were >1. Analytical results revealed that the level of inorganic As in milkfish was the main contributor to HIs, indicating a health risk posed to consumers of fish farmed in As-contaminated areas. However, we found that Zn supplementation could significantly decrease As-induced risk of hematological effect by activating a Zn-dependent enzyme. In order to improve the accuracy of health risk due to exposure to multiple metals, further toxicological data, regular environmental monitoring, dietary survey, and refinement approaches for interactive risk assessment are warranted.
- Human health
- Interaction-based hazard index
- Metal mixture interactions
- Mixture risk assessment