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Methylmercury in Marine Fish Pose Health Risks to Pregnant Women and Elderly Men

The health risks posed by mercury contaminated fish are enormous and especially children and women of childbearing age have to be careful about how much// and which fish they eat says-"The Madison Declaration on Mercury Pollution" published today in a special issue of the international science journal Ambio.

Developed at the Eighth International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant last August in Madison, Wis., the declaration is a synopsis of the latest scientific knowledge about the danger posed by mercury pollution. It presents 33 principal findings from five synthesis papers prepared by the world's leading mercury scientists and published in the same issue of Ambio. The declaration and supporting papers summarize what is currently known about the sources and movement of mercury in the atmosphere, the socioeconomic and health effects of mercury pollution on human populations, and its effects on the world's fisheries and wildlife.

Five other major findings in the declaration were: On average, three times more mercury is falling from the sky today than before the Industrial Revolution 200 years ago as a result of the increasing use of mercury and industrial emissions.

The uncontrolled use of mercury in small-scale gold mining is contaminating thousands of sites around the world, posing long-term health risks to an estimated 50 million inhabitants of mining regions. These activities alone contribute more than 10 percent of the mercury in Earth's atmosphere attributable to human activities today.

Little is known about the behavior of mercury in marine ecosystems and methylmercury in marine fish, the ingestion of which is the primary way most people at all levels of society worldwide are exposed to this highly toxic form of mercury.

Methylmercury exposure now constitutes a public health problem in most regions of the world. Methylmercury levels in fish-eating birds and mammals in some parts of th
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