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J Prev Med Public Health. 2012 Nov;45(6):335-43. doi: 10.3961/jpmph.2012.45.6.335. Epub 2012 Nov 29.

Fate and transport of mercury in environmental media and human exposure.

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  • 1Department of Environmental Health, Seoul National University School of Public Health, Seoul, Korea.

Erratum in

  • J Prev Med Public Health. 2013 Jul;46(4):211.


Mercury is emitted to the atmosphere from various natural and anthropogenic sources, and degrades with difficulty in the environment. Mercury exists as various species, mainly elemental (Hg(0)) and divalent (Hg(2+)) mercury depending on its oxidation states in air and water. Mercury emitted to the atmosphere can be deposited into aqueous environments by wet and dry depositions, and some can be re-emitted into the atmosphere. The deposited mercury species, mainly Hg(2+), can react with various organic compounds in water and sediment by biotic reactions mediated by sulfur-reducing bacteria, and abiotic reactions mediated by sunlight photolysis, resulting in conversion into organic mercury such as methylmercury (MeHg). MeHg can be bioaccumulated through the food web in the ecosystem, finally exposing humans who consume fish. For a better understanding of how humans are exposed to mercury in the environment, this review paper summarizes the mechanisms of emission, fate and transport, speciation chemistry, bioaccumulation, levels of contamination in environmental media, and finally exposure assessment of humans.


Emission; Exposure; Fate and transport; Mercury; Methylmercury; Speciation

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