, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 171–182 | Cite as

Selenium:Mercury Molar Ratios in Freshwater Fish from Tennessee: Individual, Species, and Geographical Variations have Implications for Management

  • Joanna BurgerEmail author
  • Michael Gochfeld
  • C. Jeitner
  • M. Donio
  • T. Pittfield
Original Contribution


Vertebrates, including humans, can experience adverse effects from mercury consumed in fish. Humans often prefer large predatory fish that bioaccumulate high mercury levels. Recent attention has focused on the role of selenium countering mercury toxicity, but there is little research on the selenium:mercury molar ratios in freshwater fish. We examine selenium:mercury molar ratios in freshwater fish from Tennessee at Poplar Creek which receives ongoing inputs of mercury from the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Y-12 facility. Our objective was to determine variation of the ratios within species that might affect the protectiveness of selenium against mercury toxicity. Within species, the ratio was correlated significantly and positively with fish length only for two species. There was great individual variation in the selenium:mercury molar ratio within each species, except striped bass. The lack of a clear relationship between the selenium:mercury molar ratio and fish length, and the intraspecific variation, suggests that it would be difficult to use the molar ratio in predicting either the risk from mercury toxicity or in devising consumption advisories.


mercury selenium molar ratios fish interspecific variability risk management 



The authors especially thank D. Mergler, A. Stern, R. Schoeny, M. Lemire, M. Peterson, E. Pierce, and N. Ralston for valuable discussions about selenium and mercury interactions. Several people contributed to the initial study examining contaminant levels in fish from Oak Ridge Reservation, including K.R. Campbell, T.S. Campbell, R.J. Dickey, and R. Sexton. This research was funded by the Consortium for Risk Evaluation with Stakeholder Participation (CRESP) through the Department of Energy (AI # DE-FC01-95EW55084, DE-FG 26-00NT 40938, DE-FC01-06EW07053), NIEHS (P30ES005022), and EOHSI. The results, conclusions, and interpretations presented in this paper are solely the responsibility of the authors, and should not in any way be interpreted as representing the funding agencies.


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Copyright information

© International Association for Ecology and Health 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joanna Burger
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
    Email author
  • Michael Gochfeld
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • C. Jeitner
    • 2
  • M. Donio
    • 2
  • T. Pittfield
    • 2
  1. 1.Division of Life SciencesRutgers UniversityPiscatawayUSA
  2. 2.Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, and Consortium for Risk Evaluation with Stakeholder ParticipationRutgers UniversityPiscatawayUSA
  3. 3.Environmental and Occupational MedicineUMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical SchoolPiscatawayUSA
  4. 4.Center for Environmental Exposure and DiseasePiscatawayUSA

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