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Figure 2.5.5: Pathways of mercury into fish and humans
waste incinerators AIR
Fossil fuel burning &
mercury vapor Elemental
Rain Vaporizes h u m a n s F i s h t o
Source: Adapted from Driscoll et al. 2013
the highest body burdens of these harmful chemicals. Top carnivores include large, long-lived fish such as tuna, sharks and swordfish that are eaten by humans, who can be affected by eating them. The development of the human nervous system is especially sensitive to methylmercury (Boucher et al. 2012).
Effects of build-up of toxic chemicals are slow and chronic, rather than showing acute illness as caused by pathogens or algal toxins. The consumption of fish is by far the most significant source of ingestion-related mercury exposure in humans (Figure 2.5.5). Young children and pregnant women are the most vulnerable. Since mercury is a neurotoxin, symptoms typically include sensory impairment (vision, hearing, and speech), disturbed sensation and poor coordination (Counter and Buchanan 2004).