Mercury in the Environment

Mercury in the Environment: Pattern and Process

Edited by MICHAEL S. BANK
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Pages: 360
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1pnzhh
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  • Book Info
    Mercury in the Environment
    Book Description:

    Mercury pollution and contamination are widespread, well documented, and continue to pose a public health concern in both developed and developing countries. In response to a growing need for understanding the cycling of this ubiquitous pollutant, the science of mercury has grown rapidly to include the fields of biogeochemistry, economics, sociology, public health, decision sciences, physics, global change, and mathematics. Only recently have scientists begun to establish a holistic approach to studying mercury pollution that integrates chemistry, biology, and human health sciences.Mercury in the Environmentfollows the process of mercury cycling through the atmosphere, through terrestrial and aquatic food webs, and through human populations to develop a comprehensive perspective on this important environmental problem. This timely reference also provides recommendations on mercury remediation, risk communication, education, and monitoring.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95139-6
    Subjects: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. FOREWORD
    (pp. ix-x)
    SARAH GEROULD

    I was a teenager whenLifemagazine published W. Eugene Smith’s famous pictures of Tomoko Uemura, her body ravaged by deformities from Minamata disease. I remember poring over the pictures while sitting on our living room couch, wondering how such a thing could have happened and about how mercury could have caused these devastating deformities. In 1972, the science of mercury in the environment was in its infancy. Although the neurologic symptoms of Minamata disease were recognized well enough for specialists to identify mercury as the causative agent, the understanding of mercury’s environmental impacts and global dispersal would require several...

  5. INTRODUCTION Mercury on the Rise
    (pp. xi-xii)
    MICHAEL S. BANK

    Mercury science is a rapidly growing interdisciplinary field and touches on nearly all academic and scientific disciplines, including biogeochemistry, economics, sociology, public health, decision sciences, physics, global change, and mathematics. Only recently have scientists really begun to establish more holistic approaches to studying mercury pollution, including investigations that have furthered the integration of a multitiered approach, especially by using chemistry, biology, and human health sciences.

    The study of mercury pollution has contributed a variety of domestic and international policies related to the management of this ubiquitous contaminant. The target audience for this book is graduate and undergraduate students, natural resource...

  6. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  7. PART ONE Mercury Cycling in the Environment
    • CHAPTER 1 Sources and Transport: A Global Issue
      (pp. 3-18)
      PHIL SWARTZENDRUBER and DANIEL JAFFE

      The Roman deity, Mercury, was the god of trade, commerce, thievery, and messengers. His reputation as a cunning and swift messenger led to the modern adjective,mercurial, meaning labile, volatile, and erratic. Many contemporary scientists who study mercury would emphatically agree that its behavior in the environment and in the laboratory often seems erratic and mysterious. Indeed, it was only relatively recently that we became aware of the global nature of mercury contamination, partly because of the difficulty in detecting it at the extremely low concentrations that are typical in air and water. Thus, we encounter an apparent paradox fitting...

    • CHAPTER 2 Industrial Use of Mercury in the Ancient World
      (pp. 19-24)
      WILLIAM E. BROOKS

      Mercury and cinnabar, the common ore of mercury, were known and used by ancient people in Africa, Asia, Central America, Europe, Mexico, and South America. Archaeologists have shown that cinnabar was mined and mercury was produced more than 8000 years ago in Turkey. Cinnabar was a multiuse pigment in many parts of the ancient world, and mercury was used for gilding or placer gold amalgamation. Mercury was the earliest known treatment for syphilis, and its use is described in the Canon of Medicine by the Persian physician Ibn Sina (Avicenna) in 1025 ce.

      Even though cinnabar and mercury are found...

  8. PART TWO Methods for Research, Monitoring, and Analysis
    • CHAPTER 3 Analytical Methods for Measuring Mercury in Water, Sediment, and Biota
      (pp. 27-54)
      BRENDA K. LASORSA, GARY A. GILL and MILENA HORVAT

      Mercury (Hg) exists in a large number of physical and chemical forms with a wide range of properties. Conversion between these different forms provides the basis for mercury’s complex distribution pattern in local and global cycles and for its biologic enrichment and effects. Since the 1960s, the growing awareness of environmental mercury pollution has stimulated the development of more accurate, precise and efficient methods of quantifying mercury and its compounds in a wide variety of matrices. During recent years new analytical techniques have become available that have contributed significantly to the understanding of mercury chemistry in natural systems. In particular,...

    • CHAPTER 4 Use of Stable Isotopes in Mercury Research
      (pp. 55-72)
      HOLGER HINTELMANN

      Mercury, with an average atomic weight of 200.59 ± 0.02, has seven stable isotopes and numerous radioactive isotopes. The representative abundance percentages (De Laeter et al., 2003) of the individual isotopes are ¹⁹⁶Hg (0.15 ± 0.01), ¹⁹⁸Hg (9.97 ± 0.20), ¹⁹⁹Hg (16.87 ± 0.22), ²⁰⁰Hg (23.10 ± 0.19), ²⁰¹Hg (13.18 ± 0.09), ²⁰²Hg (29.86 ± 0.26), and ²⁰⁴Hg (6.87 ± 0.15). The provided uncertainties are rather large, presumably caused either by measurement uncertainties or as a result of actual variations in natural isotope abundance. All radiogenic Hg isotopes, including ¹⁹⁶Hg (t1/2= 64.14 hours) and ²⁰³Hg (t1/2= 46.612 days)...

    • CHAPTER 5 Atmospheric Chemistry, Modeling, and Biogeochemistry of Mercury
      (pp. 73-80)
      NOELLE ECKLEY SELIN

      Mercury in the environment is of increasing concern globally because it can travel long distances through the atmosphere. For example, atmospheric transport and deposition of mercury from lower latitudes to the Arctic environment poses environmental and human health risks, despite few sources within the Arctic. On a more local scale, atmospheric chemical reactions and meteorologic processes can determine whether mercury deposits near sources or circulates globally. Understanding the chemistry and transport of atmospheric mercury is thus vitally important for managing mercury pollution.

      There remain several critical uncertainties surrounding the behavior of mercury in the atmosphere. The global biogeochemical budget of...

    • CHAPTER 6 A Framework for a Mercury Monitoring and Assessment Program: Synthesis and Future Research
      (pp. 81-96)
      ROBERT P. MASON

      Mercury (Hg), especially in its more toxic and bio-accumulative form as methylmercury (MeHg), is an important environmental health concern (Clarkson, 1994; Wolfe et al., 1998; Wiener et al., 2003; Pirrone and Mahaffey, 2005; Mergler et al., 2007). Therefore, in recent years there has been a global effort to limit its input to the atmosphere, especially from anthropogenic sources. Many regulations limiting Hg emissions from specific sources in developing countries, and elsewhere, are already in place, mandated, or likely to happen in the future (USEPA, 1997, 2008; UNEP, 2009). As these regulations are implemented, there is a crucial need to document...

  9. PART THREE Mercury in Terrestrial and Aquatic Environments
    • CHAPTER 7 The Role of Soils in Storage and Cycling of Mercury
      (pp. 99-118)
      ARIA AMIRBAHMAN and IVAN J. FERNANDEZ

      Mercury (Hg) cycling in soils is critical to our understanding of Hg accumulation and loss in the environment. Soils have a large capacity to store Hg, and small changes in Hg dynamics can have large effects on ecosystem function and biologic exposure. In most watersheds, the terrestrial components receive and retain considerably more atmospheric Hg deposition than the associated freshwater bodies. This can be attributed to: (a) the typically larger areal extent of the watershed as compared with the water body, (b) the role of a vegetative canopy in expanding the effective surface area, and (c) soil’s high capacity to...

    • CHAPTER 8 Mercury Cycling in Terrestrial Watersheds
      (pp. 119-142)
      JAMES B. SHANLEY and KEVIN BISHOP

      Long-range atmospheric transport of anthropogenic mercury (Hg) emissions has led to Hg deposition well in excess of natural levels throughout much of Europe, North America, and other areas (Iverfeldt, 1991; Mierle and Ingram, 1991; Fitzgerald et al., 1998; Slemr et al., 2003). This deposition has contributed to the accumulation of Hg in the aquatic food chain (Lindqvist et al., 1991; Kamman et al., 2005). It is now common for some species of fish to contain Hg near or above levels deemed harmful to human health, even in relatively remote areas such as boreal areas of Fenno-Scandia (Munthe et al., 2004)...

    • CHAPTER 9 Mercury Hotspots in Freshwater Ecosystems: Drivers, Processes, and Patterns
      (pp. 143-166)
      CELIA Y. CHEN, CHARLES T. DRISCOLL and NEIL C. KAMMAN

      The transformations and fate of the global, regional, and local contaminant mercury (Hg) have been studied extensively in freshwater ecosystems for the past 15 years (Watras et al., 1998; Driscoll et al., 2007; Evers et al., 2007). Much is known about the processes involved in methylmercury (MeHg) production and flux and MeHg bio-accumulation and trophic transfer in lakes, ponds, and reservoirs. Moreover, studies conducted in a wide range of freshwater ecosystems have revealed specific suites of attributes that predispose certain systems to being hot spots of MeHg bio-accumulation. Evers et al. (2007) defines a biologic Hg hotspot as “a location...

    • CHAPTER 10 Mercury in the Marine Environment
      (pp. 167-220)
      FRANK J. BLACK, CHRISTOPHER H. CONAWAY and A. RUSSELL FLEGAL

      The study of mercury in marine ecosystems is necessary to understand and minimize the chronic, sublethal toxicity due to exposure to organomercury in the marine environment and marine resources. The combination of the complex biogeochemical cycling of mercury with similarly complex marine ecologic processes make this study challenging, requiring a multitude of scientific approaches to answer specific questions about mercury in marine ecosystems. Some of these questions relate to fish consumption, with the most obvious being “Which fish are the healthiest to eat” and “Is there a limit to how much is healthy?” Other questions relate to the source of...

  10. PART FOUR Toxicology, Risk Analysis, Humans, and Policy
    • CHAPTER 11 Ecotoxicology of Mercury in Fish and Wildlife: Recent Advances
      (pp. 223-238)
      ANTON M. SCHEUHAMMER, NILADRI BASU, DAVID C. EVERS, GARY H. HEINZ, MARK B. SANDHEINRICH and MICHAEL S. BANK

      The toxic effects of mercury (Hg) in fish and wildlife have been extensively reviewed (e.g., Scheuhammer, 1987; Heinz, 1996; Thompson, 1996; Wiener and Spry, 1996; Wiener et al., 2003; Scheuhammer et al., 2007). However, some research on the subtle effects of methylmercury (MeHg) on brain chemistry, hormones, and reproductive success and the implications for population-level effects in certain at-risk species, such as the common loon (Gavia immer) have not been reviewed previously. A number of the newer studies demonstrate that current levels of environmental MeHg exposure are sufficient to cause significant biological impairment, both in individuals and in whole populations,...

    • CHAPTER 12 Risk Evaluation of Mercury Pollution
      (pp. 239-266)
      JOANNA BURGER and MICHAEL GOCHFELD

      Increasingly the public, governmental agencies, and public policy makers, as well as health professionals and ecologists, want to understand the risks that derive from mercury in the environment. The risks are to individuals of a species, including humans, and to populations, communities, and ecosystems. The risks can be sublethal as well as lethal, resulting in altered behavior, impaired reproductive success and/or lower survival, and eventually decreases in populations. Toxic effects can be at the biochemical, cellular, or organ level. High levels of methylmercury in individual organisms can lead both to detrimental effects on the individuals themselves, and also to other...

    • CHAPTER 13 Mercury and Public Health: An Assessment of Human Exposure
      (pp. 267-288)
      WENDY McKELVEY and EMILY OKEN

      Historically, humans have suffered toxic effects of mercury as a result of purposeful as well as accidental exposures. Mercury has been used in medical remedies for centuries. Some scientists believe it was used during the Middle Ages to treat diseases that manifested with skin lesions, such as syphilis and leprosy (Goldwater, 1972; Rasmussen et al., 2008). Earlier medicinal uses have been documented in China, India, and the Middle East (Goldwater, 1972). Mercury is still used medicinally in some parts of the world (Liu et al., 2008; Saper et al., 2008).

      The toxicity of mercury and mercury-containing remedies has also long...

    • CHAPTER 14 Mercury Exposure in Vulnerable Populations: Guidelines for Fish Consumption
      (pp. 289-300)
      JOHN DELLINGER, MATTHEW DELLINGER and JENNIFER S. YAUCK

      In the 1950s, a mysterious epidemic hit the Japanese fishing village of Minamata. An unusual number of residents began to exhibit odd behaviors, such as slurring their speech, stumbling, or trembling uncontrollably. Hearing and vision impairments developed in some, and paralysis in others. The malady even affected newborn babies, some of whom were born with physical deformities, cerebral palsy, or mental retardation.

      An investigation eventually linked the village’s strange outbreak of health problems to a pollutant in Minamata Bay: mercury. For years, a local chemical plant had discharged organic mercury into the bay’s waters, where the pollutant moved up the...

    • CHAPTER 15 Environmental Justice: The Mercury Connection
      (pp. 301-316)
      JEROME NRIAGU, NILADRI BASU and SIMONE CHARLES

      Environmental justice and sustainable development are two recent concepts that have provided exciting and normative framework for public debate and environmental planning in many countries. Although both concepts are difficult to define and lack precision as analytic policy tools, each paradigm has a potential to effect long-lasting changes on how we relate to and manage the environment (Agyeman, 2005). What makes the concepts unique is that both promote environmental equity using communitarian-approach to issues at the local, regional, and global scales.

      As defined by Bullard (1994), environmental justice “embraces the principle that all people and communities are entitled to equal...

    • CHAPTER 16 Integrating Mercury Science and Environmental Policy: A State Perspective
      (pp. 317-332)
      C. MARK SMITH

      Persistent, bio-accumulative, and toxic (PBT) pollutants are of particular concern to environmental and public health policy makers because of their potential for adverse multi-generational effects that often range far beyond their site of initial release. PBTs, like mercury, which cause adverse neurodevelopmental effects, raise additional concerns because of their long-term individual and societal impacts as well as ethical considerations relating to the involuntary nature of the exposure. Personal and societal concerns about the well-being of children are also paramount. These attributes underpin the priority status that mercury pollution has been afforded by many states as well as their focus on...

  11. INDEX
    (pp. 333-344)