Natural Sciences and Mathematics

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Journal of Environmental and Public Health

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This report synthesizes and evaluates published scientific literature on the environmental occurrence and biomagnification of mercury with emphasis on the San Francisco Bay Area (SFBA), California. Mercury forms various compounds, well known for their toxicity in humans and environmental ecosystems. Elemental mercury is transported and distributed by air, water, and sediments. Through the metabolic processes of algae and bacteria, mercury is converted into organic compounds, such as methylmercury (MeHg), which then bioaccumulates up through trophic levels. In fish, it is found primarily in skeletal muscle, while in humans, the primary target organs are the brain and kidneys. Health concerns exist regarding bioaccumulation of mercury in humans. This paper reviews the known anthropogenic sources of mercury contamination, including atmospheric deposition through aerial transport from coal burning power plants, cement production, and residual contaminants of mercury from gold mining, as well as mercury-containing waste from silver amalgams emitted from dental offices into waterways. Although tools exist for measuring mercury levels in hair, breast milk, urine, blood, and feces in humans, current diagnostic tools are inadequate in measuring total mercury load, including deposited mercury in tissues. Additionally, insufficient attention is being paid to potential synergistic impacts of mercury interaction with multipliers such as lead, cadmium, and aluminum. We provide specific data on methylmercury concentrations at different trophic levels, followed by recommendations for reducing the level of mercury in the SFBA in order to protect the health of humans and other species.

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Copyright © 2020 Mietek Kolipinski et al.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.