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Mercury in Human Ecology

  • Tsuguyoshi Suzuki
Part of the Rochester Series on Environmental Toxicity book series (RSET)

Abstract

Mercury has existed in the human environment at every stage of human evolution. Therefore, how was, and is, human adaptation to the existing level of mercury to be clarified to approach the limitation in our adaptability. For this, it is necessary to evaluate the environmental characteristics of each local human ecosystem.
  1. 1.

    Mercury in a tropical human ecosystem with traditional ways of living.

    In an ecosystem in the Papua lowlands, mercury, mostly in the form of methylmercury, is found in fishes and reptiles at elevated levels. Mercury levels are correlated with the stable isotope ratio of nitrogen (15N/14N) in animal food which indicates a biomagnification of mercury accumulation through the food chain. In animal foods, mercury to selenium ratio is getting close to unity on the molar basis with increasing mercury levels. Dietary mercury intake and hair mercury levels in the fish-eating sector are comparable with those in developed countries. Balance between Se and Hg in the dietary intake is inclined to relative excess of Se to Hg.

     
  2. 2.

    Mercury in an urbanized ecosystem (Tokyo).

    In an urbanized ecosystem in an industrialized country, the major source of mercury is via fish consumption. In organs obtained from forensic autopsy cases in Tokyo, methylmercury levels are uniform through all the organs (30 to 50 ng/g on average) except the liver (113 ng/g), but inorganic mercury levels are high in the liver and kidney (266 to 456 ng/g) and low in the brain, heart and spleen (4 to 9 ng/g). Selenium levels are significantly correlated with mercury levels in some organs, particularly in the kidney, where% inorganic to total mercury is as high as 85%.

    From these results and additionally the results obtained on harbor seals caught in the Okhotsk sea, the role of selenium in adapting environmental mercury will be hypothetically discussed.

     

Keywords

Mercury Concentration Marine Mammal Total Mercury Mercury Level Stable Isotope Ratio 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tsuguyoshi Suzuki
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Human Ecology, School of Health Sciences, Faculty of MedicineThe University of TokyoBunkyo-ku, TokyoJapan

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