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Mercury Biogeochemical Cycling and Bioaccumulation in Aquatic Environments: A Review

  • Published : 2007.06.30

Abstract

Over the last century the mercury (Hg) concentration in the environment has been increased by human activities with inputs from sources such as atmospheric deposition, urban runoff, and industrial effluents. Mercury can be transformed to methylmercury (MeHg) in anaerobic conditions by sulfate reducing bacteria (SRB) and sediments are the principal location for MeHg production in aquatic environments. Interest in bioaccumulation of Hg and MeHg into lower trophic levels of benthic and pelagic organisms stems from public health concerns as these organisms provide essential links for higher trophic levels of food chains such as fish and larger invertebrates. Fish consumption is the major exposure route of MeHg to humans. Recently, it was reported that blood samples in Korea showed much higher Hg levels (5-8 times) than those in USA and Germany. Although this brings much attention to Hg research in Korea, there are very few studies on Hg biogeochemical cycling and bioaccumulation in aquatic environments. Given the importance of Hg methylation and MeHg transfer through food chains in aquatic environments, it is imperative that studies should be done in much detail looking at the fate, transport, and bioaccumulation of Hg and MeHg in the environment. Moreover, there should be long-term monitoring plans in Korea to evaluate the environmental and health effects of Hg and MeHg.

Keywords

mercury;methylmercury;bioaccumulation;mercury methylation

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