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Rice Is a Significant Source of Methylmercury

 

Human activities such as mining, smelting, and coal combustion disperse mercury that can be methylated by bacteria to produce methylmercury, a potent neurotoxicant. Methylating bacteria thrive in aquatic sediments rich in organic matter, and methylmercury biomagnification eventually leads to heavy contamination of top predators, including fish consumed by humans. Although fish and seafood are the most common dietary sources of methylmercury worldwide, new research from China demonstrates that rice, a staple food for billions, can be a primary source of methylmercury in areas where there is substantial inorganic mercury pollution, with calculated exposure exceeding current tolerable daily intakes [EHP 118(9):11831188; Zhang et al.].

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