Marine & Environmental Sciences Faculty Articles


Mercury Transport and Bioaccumulation in Riverbank Communities of the Alvarado Lagoon System, Veracruz State, Mexico

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Science of the Total Environment


Mercury, Sediment, Fish, Hair, Alvarado Lagoon System, Veracruz, Mexico







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The Alvarado Lagoon System (ALS) is located within the Papaloapan River Basin in southern Veracruz, Mexico. The ALS is a shallow system (2 m) connected to the Gulf of Mexico through a narrow sea channel. There are a large number of riverbank communities within the ALS that are dependent upon its biological productivity for comestible and economic subsistence. The purpose of this project was to determine the levels of mercury in water, sediment, fish, and hair samples from within the Papaloapan River Basin and to characterize the risk of Hg exposure to the individuals that reside in these communities. Water and fish samples were collected during the wet (September 2005) and dry (March 2003 and 2005) seasons. Hair samples, dietary surveys, and sediment samples were obtained during the wet and dry seasons of 2005. Total Hg in the water column ranged from 1.0 to 12.7 ng/L. A strong correlation (R2 = 0.82; p < 0.001) between total Hg and total suspended solids in the water column suggests that particulate matter is a transport mechanism for Hg within the lagoon system. Total Hg in the sediments ranged from 27.5 to 90.5 ng Hg/g dry weight with no significant difference between the 2005 wet and dry seasons. There was a mild, but significant, correlation between total Hg and % carbon for the March 2005 sediment samples (R2 = 0.435;p = 0.020), suggesting that Hg is associated with organic matter on the solid phase. Concentrations of total Hg in fish and shellfish harvested from the ALS ranged from 0.01 to 0.35 μg Hg/g wet. The levels of total Hg in hair ranged from 0.10 to 3.36 μg Hg/g (n = 47) and 58% of the samples were above 1.00 μg Hg/g. The findings from this study suggest that individuals who frequently consume fish and shell fish containing low levels of Hg (< 0.3 μg/g) can accumulate low to moderate body burdens of Hg, as indicated by hair Hg concentrations > 1.0 μg/g, and may be at risk for experiencing low dose mercury toxicity.


©2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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NSF/MRI grant #: 0079658; South Carolina Higher Education Commission grant #: SCRIG:#99-09T



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