A new report just released by IPEN (a global network of public interest NGOs) documents the high levels of this potent neurotoxin found in women surveyed in 21 countries, including many small island states. Almost 75 % of the women surveyed had mercury levels greater than 0.58 ppm in hair samples—a level considered the threshold for potentially harmful effects in women of child-bearing age. The predominant cause of this toxicity is the mercury found in fish—the main source of protein in numerous populations on small islands and isolated coastal communities, particularly in regions close to the Arctic. The consumption of fish and other marine animals is considered to be the main source of methylmercury exposure in most populations worldwide.
But a more dramatic report was actually published a few weeks earlier–and seems to have gone unnoticed by the mainstream media. A comprehensive review of mercury levels in human populations over the period 2000 to 2018, was published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives in October this year. Led by Dr Niladi Basu at McGill University in Montreal, the team analysed almost 435,000 mercury biomarker measurements from 335,391 individuals across 75 countries.
Within the cross-sectional studies, the researchers identified 71 populations from 18 countries that were specifically studied because of concerns associated with the consumption of fish and other aquatic animals. Exposure to mercury in this group of people was approximately four times higher than in the general background population.
Not surprisingly, populations associated with bodies of water tend to have higher levels of mercury. Inland groups that were linked to rivers and lakes had almost seven times more mercury in their blood than normal levels.
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