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Nat Commun. 2019 Nov 14;10(1):5164. doi: 10.1038/s41467-019-13221-2.

Rice life cycle-based global mercury biotransport and human methylmercury exposure.

Author information

1
Ministry of Education Laboratory of Earth Surface Processes, College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Peking University, 100871, Beijing, China.
2
School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, New Haven, CT, 06511, USA.
3
Department of Marine Sciences, University of Connecticut, 1080 Shennecossett Road, Groton, CT, 06340, USA.
4
Key Laboratory of Geographic Information Science (Ministry of Education), East China Normal University, 200241, Shanghai, China.
5
Center for Industrial Ecology, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, New Haven, CT, 06511, USA.
6
Finance Department, Guanghua School of Management, Peking University, 100871, Beijing, China.
7
School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA, 30332, USA.
8
School of Environment and Natural Resources, Renmin University of China, 100872, Beijing, China.
9
Ministry of Education Laboratory of Earth Surface Processes, College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Peking University, 100871, Beijing, China. xjwang@urban.pku.edu.cn.

Abstract

Protecting the environment and enhancing food security are among the world's greatest challenges. Fish consumption is widely considered to be the single significant dietary source of methylmercury. Nevertheless, by synthesizing data from the past six decades and using a variety of models, we find that rice could be a significant global dietary source of human methylmercury exposure, especially in South and Southeast Asia. In 2013, globalization caused 9.9% of human methylmercury exposure via the international rice trade and significantly aggravated rice-derived exposure in Africa (62%), Central Asia (98%) and Europe (42%). In 2016, 180 metric tons of mercury were generated in rice plants, 14-fold greater than that exported from oceans via global fisheries. We suggest that future research should consider both the joint ingestion of rice with fish and the food trade in methylmercury exposure assessments, and anthropogenic biovectors such as crops should be considered in the global mercury cycle.

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