Abstract:Methylmercury (MeHg) is a toxic environmental
contaminant affecting human health, and exposure occurs mainly through
dietary uptake of contaminated fish. To minimize MeHg exposure, U.S.
federal and state agencies issue consumption advisories to inform the
public of the possible health risks of eating fish. While consumption
advisories have been developed on a site-specific basis for fish
inhabiting freshwater systems, advisories regarding the consumption of
saltwater species lack geographic specificity. Thus, national
consumption advisories are possibly misguided and ineffective because
they do not account for small-scale spatial variations in mercury.
Mercury (Hg) contamination of local coastal fisheries may be predictable
if causative factors are taken into account, e.g., dietary differences
among fish and their residence time within specific water bodies. This
investigation will focus on Rhode Island estuarine and coastal waters,
where local fisheries are important dietary and commercial resources for
denizens of the state. Total Hg concentrations will be measured in the
most commonly-consumed fish in this area, and evaluate fish Hg results
relative to their trophic ecology and habitat preferences. Fish Hg data
will then be incorporated into exposure assessment models to estimate
human exposure to Hg due to local fish consumption. To evaluate the
efficacy of this modeling approach, results discussed herein will be
compared to national estimates of human Hg exposure and the reference
dose established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Information on human dietary exposure to local fish Hg contamination
will support the development of effective consumption advisories for
fish-eating residents of RI. Finally, for public engagement and
education at the community level, public meetings will be organized to
widely disseminate the results of the proposed research.