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28 June 2010

Mercury worse in marine fish

Seawater itself is the reason mercury in saltwater fish poses more of a risk than freshwater fish, even though concentrations of the metal are higher in freshwater species.

Seawater itself is the reason mercury in saltwater fish poses more of a health threat to humans than freshwater fish, even though concentrations of the metal are much higher in freshwater species, according to new research.Duke University researchers found that the potentially harmful form of mercury called methylmercury attaches onto dissolved organic matter in freshwater, but latches onto the salt (chloride) in seawater.

"When it is attached to dissolved organic matter, like decayed plants or animal matter, sunlight more readily breaks down the methylmercury. However, in seawater, the methylmercury remains tightly bonded to the chloride, where sunlight does not degrade it as easily. In this form, methylmercury can then be ingested by marine animals," Hsu-Kim explained.

 
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