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Environmental Health Perspectives


Department of Biological Sciences


Mercury and other contaminants in coastal and open-ocean ecosystems are an issue of great concern globally and in the United States, where consumption of marine fish and shellfish is a major route of human exposure to methylmercury (MeHg). A recent National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences–Superfund Basic Research Program workshop titled “Fate and Bioavailability of Mercury in Aquatic Ecosystems and Effects on Human Exposure,” convened by the Dartmouth Toxic Metals Research Program on 15–16 November 2006 in Durham, New Hampshire, brought together human health experts, marine scientists, and ecotoxicologists to encourage cross-disciplinary discussion between ecosystem and human health scientists and to articulate research and monitoring priorities to better understand how marine food webs have become contaminated with MeHg. Although human health effects of Hg contamination were a major theme, the workshop also explored effects on marine biota. The workgroup focused on three major topics: a) the biogeochemical cycling of Hg in marine ecosystems, b) the trophic transfer and bioaccumulation of MeHg in marine food webs, and c) human exposure to Hg from marine fish and shellfish consumption. The group concluded that current understanding of Hg in marine ecosystems across a range of habitats, chemical conditions, and ocean basins is severely data limited. An integrated research and monitoring program is needed to link the processes and mechanisms of MeHg production, bioaccumulation, and transfer with MeHg exposure in humans.



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