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Chemosphere. 2008 Feb;70(11):2016-24. Epub 2007 Nov 5.

A summary of total mercury concentrations in flora and fauna near common contaminant sources in the Gulf of Mexico.

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United States Environmental Protection Agency, National Health and Environmental Effects, Research Laboratory, Gulf Ecology Division, Gulf Breeze, FL 32561, USA.


Total mercury concentrations are summarized for environmental media and biota collected from near-coastal areas, several impacted by contaminant sources common to the Gulf of Mexico. Water, sediment, fish, blue crabs, oysters, clams, mussels, periphyton and seagrasses were collected during 1993-2002 from targeted areas affected by point and non-point source contaminants. Mean concentrations in water and sediment were 0.02 (+/-1 standard deviation=0.06) microg l(-1) and 96.3 (230.8) ng g(-1) dry wt, respectively. Mean total mercury concentrations in fish, blue crabs, brackish clams and mussels were significantly greater than those in sediment, seagrass, colonized periphyton and oysters. Concentrations (ng g(-1) dry wt) averaged 23.1 (two seagrass species), 220.1 (oysters), 287.8 (colonized periphyton), 604.0 (four species of freshwater mussels), 772.4 (brackish clam), 857.9 (blue crabs) and 933.1 (nine fish species). Spatial, intraspecific and interspecific variability in results limited most generalizations concerning the relative mercury contributions of different stressor types. However, concentrations were significantly greater for some biota collected from areas receiving wastewater discharges and golf course runoff (fish), agricultural runoff (oysters) and urban stormwater runoff (colonized periphyton and sediment). Marine water quality criteria and proposed sediment quality guidelines were exceeded in 1-12% of total samples. At least one seafood consumption guideline, criteria or screening value were exceeded in edible tissues of blue crabs (6% total samples) and nine fish species (8-33% total samples) but all residues were less than the US Federal Drug Administration action limit of 1.0 ppm and the few reported toxic effect concentrations available for the targeted biota.

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