Methylmercury Exposure and Health Effects in Humans: A Worldwide Concern

Department of Biological Sciences, Institute for Environmental Sciences, University of Québec, Montreal, Canada.
AMBIO A Journal of the Human Environment (Impact Factor: 2.29). 03/2007; 36(1):3-11. DOI: 10.1579/0044-7447(2007)36[3:MEAHEI]2.0.CO;2
Source: PubMed


The paper builds on existing literature, highlighting current understanding and identifying unresolved issues about MeHg exposure, health effects, and risk assessment, and concludes with a consensus statement. Methylmercury is a potent toxin, bioaccumulated and concentrated through the aquatic food chain, placing at risk people, throughout the globe and across the socioeconomic spectrum, who consume predatory fish or for whom fish is a dietary mainstay. Methylmercury developmental neurotoxicity has constituted the basis for risk assessments and public health policies. Despite gaps in our knowledge on new bioindicators of exposure, factors that influence MeHg uptake and toxicity, toxicokinetics, neurologic and cardiovascular effects in adult populations, and the nutritional benefits and risks from the large number of marine and freshwater fish and fish-eating species, the panel concluded that to preserve human health, all efforts need to be made to reduce and eliminate sources of exposure.

    • "Approximately 6600 tons of mercury (Hg) are released into the atmosphere annually, and concentrations continue to rise in many regions of the world (Swain et al., 2007). Humans are primarily exposed to environmental Hg via ingestion of methylmercurycontaminated seafood (Mergler et al., 2007). In addition to being exposed to methylmercury via diet, the general public and dental professionals are also exposed to elemental Hg via dental amalgams (Dye et al., 2005). "
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    ABSTRACT: Background/aims: Mercury (Hg) is a potent toxicant of concern to the general public. Recent studies suggest that several genes that mediate Hg metabolism are polymorphic. We hypothesize that single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in such genes may underline inter-individual differences in exposure biomarker concentrations. Methods: Dental professionals were recruited during the American Dental Association (ADA) 2012 Annual Meeting. Samples of hair, blood, and urine were collected for quantifying Hg levels and genotyping (88 SNPs in classes relevant to Hg toxicokinetics including glutathione metabolism, selenoproteins, metallothioneins, and xenobiotic transporters). Questionnaires were administrated to obtain information on demographics and sources of Hg exposure (e.g., fish consumption and use of dental amalgam). Here, we report results for 380 participants with complete genotype and Hg biomarker datasets. ANOVA and linear regressions were used for statistical analysis. Results: Mean (geometric) Hg levels in hair (hHg), blood (bHg), urine (uHg), and the average estimated Hg intake from fish were 0.62µg/g, 3.75µg/L, 1.32µg/L, and 0.12µg/kg body weight/day, respectively. Out of 88 SNPs successfully genotyped, Hg biomarker levels differed by genotype for 25 SNPs, one of which remained significant following Bonferroni correction in ANOVA. When the associations between sources of Hg exposure and SNPs were analyzed with respect to Hg biomarker concentrations, 38 SNPs had significant main effects and/or gene-Hg exposure source interactions. Twenty-five, 23, and four SNPs showed significant main effects and/or interactions for hHg, bHg, and uHg levels, respectively (p<0.05), and six SNPs (in GCLC, MT1M, MT4, ATP7B, and BDNF) remained significant following Bonferroni correction. Conclusion: The findings suggest that polymorphisms in environmentally-responsive genes can influence Hg biomarker levels. Hence, consideration of such gene-environment factors may improve the ability to assess the health risks of Hg more precisely.
    No preview · Article · Dec 2015 · Environmental Research
    • "Fish is a highly nutritious food with amazing human benefits , but the contamination of this important global commodity by Me- Hg has become a challenge to public health, as over 90% of Hg in fish is Me-Hg (Rimondi et al., 2012). Thus, Me-Hg exposure associated with consuming fish and shellfish poses health risks, such as immune deficiencies and toxicity to the central nervous system, especially in fetuses (Mergler et al., 2007; Choi et al., 2014). "
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    ABSTRACT: Limited information is available on mercury (Hg) levels in various shark species consumed in Korea. The methyl-Hg (Me-Hg) and total Hg concentrations in all shark species ranged from 0.08 to 4.5 (mean: 1.2) mg/kg wet weight and from 0.1 to 7.0 (mean: 1.4) mg/kg wet weight, respectively. Inter-species differences in Hg accumulation were found among the species; however, Hg accumulation was homogenous between dorsal and pectoral fins within species. The highest Hg levels were found in aggressive carnivore shark species. Trophic position was important in determining Hg accumulation for aggressive carnivore sharks. Approximately 80% of shark species exceeded the safety limits for Me-Hg established by domestic and international authorities. The mean estimated daily intake of Me-Hg (1.3μg/kg body weight/day) for Korean populations consuming various sharks was higher than the guidelines proposed by international regulatory authorities, suggesting that excessive shark fin consumption may pose potential health risks for Koreans.
    No preview · Article · Nov 2015 · Marine Pollution Bulletin
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    • "Mercury (Hg) is found in the environment from both natural and anthropogenic sources, and has been shown to severely deteriorate ecosystem and human health under sufficiently high concentrations (Driscoll et al., 2012; Karagas et al., 2012; Mergler et al., 2007). "
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    ABSTRACT: The rapid economic growth of the Republic of Korea (S. Korea) within the last half-century has resulted in a pronounced increase in anthropogenic Hg emission from coal combustion, oil refining, cement production, and waste incineration. The record of increasing atmospheric sources have been investigated with a historical reconstruction of Hg accumulation in 30 sediment cores collected from the Yeongsan Estuary. Within the last several decades, this region has undergone severe anthropogenic alteration, including the construction of an estuarine dam forming the Yeongsan Lake, and installation of numerous seawalls that eliminated vast tidal flats and restricted estuarine circulation. Total mercury concentrations (T-Hg) measured in sediments deposited after 1980 (23.2 ± 9.6 ng g-1; n = 273), were significantly higher than those reported for pre-industrial sediments (i.e. background values: 8.6 ± 2.7 ng g-1; n = 274). An extensive survey of surface samples show that T-Hg concentrations are highest above the dam, with a gradient to lower values further offshore. The concomitant timing of enrichment of T-Hg within the sedimentary record and increased National emissions in Korea suggests that regional sources dominate the input to the Yeongsan Estuary. This indicates that with sufficient regional historic emission data, T-Hg might be utilized as a geochronologic tool to aid in corroborating traditional radioisotopic methods.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2015
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