Mercury Levels in Dolphins Linked to Exposure in Humans

First Posted: Dec 04, 2015 05:38 PM EST

It turns out that levels of mercury in dolphins are linked to exposure in humans. Scientists have found that consuming locally caught seafood may cause some major issues for humans.

In this latest study, the researchers studied dolphins living in the Indian River Lagoon (IRL), Florida and humans who live along het estuary and consume much of the same seafood as the dolphins. Initial studies of the dolphins showed high levels of mercury, which led scientists to conduct a follow-up study on humans. The most toxic form of mercury, known as methylmercury, builds up in fish, shellfish, and animals that eat fish.

The researchers found that the cross-section of people tested also had high levels of mercury. Most of this mercury was due to the consumption of locally obtained fish and shellfish. More than half of the participants in the study had a concentration of mercury in their hair, which was greater than the guideline for exposure defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"The research exemplifies the role of dolphins as an animal sentinel in identifying a public health hazard," said Adam Schaefer, one of the researchers, in a news release. "It is a unique and critical example of closing the loop between animal and human health."

The findings are important when it comes to understanding how your diet may be impacted by fish consumption. More specifically, it shows how dolphins may be good indicators as to how much mercury humans are exposed to.

The findings are published in the journal Veterinary Sciences.

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