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Technical Report

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Mercury, fish, water quality


Mercury (Hg) contamination of fish is a widespread problem throughout much of the United States and the world (Louisiana WWW page, 1997). Levels ofHg in fish suffic1ent to exceed the FDA action level of 1 mg kg-1 have been found in many water bodies, including some in Arkansas and Louisiana. As a result of the serious public health ramifications for developing fetuses and for people that subsist on native fish, fish consumption advisories due to Hg contamination have been issued in 29 states. Contamination of surface water bodies by Hg results from deforestation, forest fires, fossil fuels, mining, natural emissions and commercial emissions (Armstrong, 1994). In addition, Hg has a high affinity for organic matter in soil and sediments, and therefore, long-term storage of Hg is an environmental problem. An excellent review of the integration and synthesis of recent work on Hg pollution is given in several papers edited by Watras and Huckabee (1994). The general consensus of the reports in this document seems to be that increases in Hg levels can be attributed to one or more of several mechanisms including atmospheric deposition, acidification of soils and lakes by sulfur deposition followed by an increased sulfate reduction, and transport from other source areas.

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