Document Detail

Organic mercury: an environmental threat to the health of dietary-exposed societies?
MedLine Citation:
PMID:  9273927     Owner:  NLM     Status:  MEDLINE    
As a natural element, mercury is ubiquitous in the environment. The largest amount of mercury, amounting to approximately 100,000 tons per year, originates from the degassing of the earth's crust. To this amount, such anthropogenic activities as combustion of fossil fuels and releases from industrial activities add approximately 20,000 tons of mercury every year. The emitted mercury, both natural and anthropogenic, is in an inorganic form, predominantly as the metallic vapor (Hgzero). In aquatic environments, however, inorganic mercury is microbiologically transformed into the lipophilic organic compound, methylmercury. The transformation from the hydrophilic to the lipophilic state makes mercury more prone to biomagnification in aquatic food chains. Consequently, populations with a traditionally high dietary intake of food originating from either fresh-water or marine environments have the highest exposure to methylmercury. Because of their traditional pursuit of marine mammals, the Inuits belong to the highest dietary exposure group /1/. This situation is particularly true for the Polar Eskimos in North West Greenland. This population has the most traditional lifestyle among the Inuits and hunts predatory species of whales, such as beluga and narwhal, a combination that results in a high level of exposure to methylmercury. Polar Eskimos in North West Greenland, living in areas with no 'accidental' mercury pollution, but with a high dietary access to methylmercury thus exemplify a population group with a current potential environmental health problem.
J C Hansen; G Danscher
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Publication Detail:
Type:  Journal Article    
Journal Detail:
Title:  Reviews on environmental health     Volume:  12     ISSN:  0048-7554     ISO Abbreviation:  Rev Environ Health     Publication Date:    1997 Apr-Jun
Date Detail:
Created Date:  1997-10-01     Completed Date:  1997-10-01     Revised Date:  2004-11-17    
Medline Journal Info:
Nlm Unique ID:  0425754     Medline TA:  Rev Environ Health     Country:  ISRAEL    
Other Details:
Languages:  eng     Pagination:  107-16     Citation Subset:  IM    
Department of Environmental and Occupational Medicine, University of Aarhus, Denmark. JCH@MIL.AAV.DK
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MeSH Terms
Carcinogens, Environmental / adverse effects
Environmental Exposure*
Environmental Pollution*
Food Contamination
Immune System / physiopathology
Mercury* / adverse effects,  chemistry,  toxicity
Methylmercury Compounds* / adverse effects,  chemistry,  toxicity
Nervous System / physiopathology
Risk Factors
Thyroid Gland / physiopathology
Reg. No./Substance:
0/Carcinogens, Environmental; 0/Methylmercury Compounds; 7439-97-6/Mercury

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