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Study finds mercury prevalent in many western fish

crograms per gram of tissue are considered a threshold of concern for fish-eating mammals, though little research has been done on how different levels of mercury affect mink, otter and related animals. Nevertheless, the survey found that 93 percent of the streams and rivers with large piscivores exceeded that level of mercury deemed "protective" for fish-eating mammals.

Conducting the study with Herlihy and Hughes were Spencer Peterson and John Van Sickle of the EPA National Health and Ecological Effects Research Laboratory, located on the OSU campus.

Mercury entering the water via the atmosphere has a variety of natural and manmade sources, the researchers say, including coal power plants from as far away as China, the burning of heavy oils and other fossil fuels, and even forest fires.

In the survey, the researchers did find 13 fish from eight different sites that had very high mercury concentrations ?levels of 1.0 microgram or higher ?likely indicating a point source. These high levels could be caused by nearby mines, dump sites or gravel pits, they added.

"There are mercury 'hotspots' out there," Hughes said, "but they are not common in the West. What we found, though, is that mercury is in fish throughout the western United States, and at higher levels in piscivores than in salmonids."


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Source:Oregon State University


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