It’s easy to think of mercury as a single substance. However, there are several different forms of mercury, which exhibit very different behaviour in the environment and in the human body. Today I’m going to briefly introduce some of the different mercury compounds, where they come from and what happens to them; future posts in this series will focus on the effects of some of the key mercury compounds.
Last summer I wrote about a review of the health impacts of oil spills (Aguilera et al., 2010) and attempted to extrapolate the results of that review to the 2010 BP oil spill. I concluded at the time that, while physical health impacts were likely limited to those involved in oil cleanup (or consuming contaminated food), past experience showed that psychological impacts on affected communities were common.
Now a new study (Grattan et al., 2011) has looked at just that. Specifically, the authors looked at two Gulf fishing communities. The first was Franklin County, Florida, which was not directly impacted by the spill (i.e. oil did not reach the beaches in the county), but experienced economic effects due to impacts on fishing and tourism. The second was Baldwin County, Alabama, which was directly impacted. The study looked primarily at adults in the fishing/seafood and tourism industries and their families, recreational fishers, and retirees. Study participants were also grouped into those who had experienced economic loss due to the spill and those who had not.
This is the second in a planned series of posts relating to mercury exposure and toxicity (see also Part 1: measuring mercury exposure and Part 3: the many faces of mercury). In this part I’m going to look at some of the causes of high mercury levels measured in the population, and specifically at a recent population biomonitoring study conducted in New York (McKelvey et al., 2011) where follow-up interviews were conducted with people who had abnormally high levels of inorganic mercury in urine samples (the mercury in urine is almost totally inorganic). The methodology was based on the methods used by the CDC for the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), and included 1,840 people across a variety of social strata, ethnicities, races, and education levels.