If you are someone who has a bent towards environmental science, or you are someone who eats fish, you might have often wondered whether fish have exposure to mercury. Well, before we get started talking about this lets first know a few things about mercury and its connection to fish.
In this article, I aim to give you an easy-to-use summary answering: “Do fish contain mercury? In what form is mercury present in fish? Do fish have mercury naturally? What is Biomagnification?” and more.
What is Mercury?
Mercury is a heavy metal that can be found in nature and in industrial processes. It has many forms, including the pure element (Hg), compounds like methylmercury (CH3Hg), and ionic mercury (Hg+).
The first thing to understand is that all three of these forms of mercury can be found in the environment.
They can be carried by wind or water into your body through inhalation or ingestion, respectively.
They can also be absorbed through your skin or breathed in by people working with them in mines and factories.
The second thing to understand is that when it comes to biomagnification, there are two sources: humans and nature itself.
Do Fish Have Mercury Naturally?
Do fish have mercury naturally? No. Fish are not born with mercury or mercury related compounds.
Mercury is a naturally occurring compound that can be found in soil, water and air. It can also be found in coal ash, which is often used to make cement.
The presence of methylmercury in fish originates from industrial pollution, which occurs when manmade chemicals are released into the environment. These chemicals eventually make their way into our waterways and oceans.
Fish can accumulate mercury in their bodies from the environment. How much mercury accumulates depends on many factors, including diet, age, and genetics.
The highest concentrations of methylmercury occur in large predatory fish such as shark, swordfish and tuna.
The more dangerous form of mercury is methylmercury because it is converted into inorganic mercury (Hg) in the body and absorbed by the nervous system.
How Do Fish Absorb Mercury?
Fish absorb mercury in two ways: from food and from water.
Mercury is released into the environment through natural processes like volcanic eruptions and through artificial industrial activity etc
Fish absorb this mercury directly from the soil when they dig for food or lay their eggs near shorelines where they are more likely to be exposed to contaminated muds.
However, fish do not absorb mercury in the pure form. It is absorbed in the in the form of methylmercury.
What Is Methylmercury?
Methylmercury is a compound of mercury. It is a very poisonous form of mercury. This form is more dangerous than other forms of mercury. It forms when bacteria react with mercury.
Methylmercury can be found in the environment, but it is also produced by industrial processes that use mercury.
Methylmercury can be absorbed by humans through eating fish or shellfish that have been contaminated by methylmercury.
Methylmercury affects many organs in the body including the brain, kidneys, liver and lungs.
The most common way that people are exposed to methylmercury is through eating fish that contain high levels of the substance.
Because it’s absorbed into your body so easily, methylmercury can affect your brain and nervous system in ways that are difficult to reverse once they’ve occurred.
Unlike elemental mercury, methylmercury can cross the blood-brain barrier and get inside your cells. This makes it much more toxic than other forms of mercury, which are harder to absorb.
Methylmercury poisoning can cause many different health problems, including birth defects in children whose mothers were exposed to it during pregnancy.
It’s also dangerous than other forms of mercury because it can easily enter the body through breathing, eating, or drinking contaminated water.
What Is Biomagnification?
Biomagnification refers to the manner in which quantity of methylmercury increases through the food chain.
Methylmercury is absorbed by algae and plankton, which are then eaten by small fish.
These smaller fish are then eaten by bigger fish, and so on. So, by the time the largest fish like a shark consumes eats a fish as prey, the content of methylmercury increases multiple times.
The Role Of Humans In Biomagnification
Methylmercury can be formed naturally or through pollution by humans.
The natural formation of methylmercury is from volcanic eruptions, which occurs when the mercury in seawater reacts with oxygen and sulfur to form a solid compound of sulfuric acid and mercury oxide.
The pollution formed can also be industrial discharge, waste disposal, and coal combustion in power plants.
The role of humans in biomagnification is important because it increases the level of biomagnification.
This means that each link in the food chain contains more methylmercury than the one before it because it has accumulated in organisms that consumed other organisms.
The process continues until all organisms contain high levels of methylmercury, which can lead to health problems such as brain damage and birth defects if ingested by humans at high enough concentrations (EPA).
Biomagnification is a serious environmental problem that needs to be addressed now. Humans are causing this increase in mercury levels by using fossil fuels and dumping toxic waste into our waterways.
In order to solve this problem, we need to reduce our consumption of fish as well as other seafood products that contain high levels of mercury.