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Title: Mercury contaminated systems under recovery can represent an increased risk to seafood human consumers: A paradox depicted in bivalves' body burdens
Author: Ahmad, I.
Coelho, J. P.
Mohmood, I.
Anjum, N. A.
Pacheco, M.
Santos, M. A.
Duarte, A. C.
Pereira, E.
Keywords: Mercury
Scrobicularia plana
Health risk
Ecosystem recovery
Issue Date: 2012
Publisher: Elsevier
Abstract: The present study, carried out in a mercury (Hg) contaminated estuary, aimed to investigate: (i) the long-term evolution of the Hg bioavailability in the environmental matrices, in a period of 5 years (2003– 2008), without new anthropogenic inputs; (ii) the temporal evolution of Hg load (organic and inorganic forms) in the native bivalve Scrobicularia plana , inferring the progression of human health risk associated to its consumption and the dependence on the animals’ size. The area selected was Laranjo basin of Ria de Aveiro (Portugal), where a Hg gradient was identified because of past discharges from a chlor-alkali plant. Two sites termed M (moderately contaminated) and H (highly contaminated) were compared with an uncontaminated reference (R) site. Results displayed a persistence of Hg in the environment, though the levels in sediment decreased at site H, confirming the ecosystem recovery. The risk associated to clam consumption remained stable in 2008 considering their total Hg (T-Hg) load and the limits established by public health authorities, though T-Hg levels significantly decreased at H site for size classes C3 (2 year) and C4 (4 year). Organic Hg (O-Hg) accumulation increased from 2003 to 2008, reaching threatening lev- els and suggesting an increased bioavailability of this Hg form. This evolution towards an increase of O- Hg accumulation was particularly prominent under a moderate contamination scenario (site M). Overall, it was demonstrated that a period of 5 years of ecosystem recovery was not enough to eliminate the risk to human consumers, highlighting Hg contamination in estuaries as a long-lasting legacy. Paradoxically, it was pointed out that in a given step of the long-term restoration process, occurring naturally in aquatic systems, the risk associated to bivalves’ consumption can appear augmented due to O-Hg accumulation increments.
Peer review: yes
DOI: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2012.01.047
ISSN: 0308-8146
Appears in Collections:CESAM - Artigos
DBio - Artigos
DQ - Artigos
Ria de Aveiro - Artigos

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