BRI and IPEN have collaborated to conduct several global mercury studies in response to strong public interest and governmental negotiation of the Minamata Convention on Mercury — the first global treaty on the environment in well over a decade by UN Environment.
The partnership between IPEN and BRI provides a rare opportunity to compile new and standardized mercury concentrations on a global basis that reflect the potential impacts of mercury on human populations around the world.
Lead Investigator: David Evers
This study, supported by the Minamata Convention’s Interim Secretariat hosted by UN Environment, reveals that women of childbearing age living in four Pacific Island countries have elevated levels of mercury in their bodies. Mercury monitoring in women of childbearing age in the Asia and the Pacific Region, examines hair samples from women aged 18 - 44 from Cook Islands, Marshall Islands, Tuvalu, and Kiribati, and two landlocked Asian countries, Tajikistan and Nepal.
The study found 96 percent of the women sampled from the Pacific Islands contained significantly elevated hair mercury levels. We hypothesize that the Pacific Island participants may have a higher mercury body burden than other locations due to their relatively high consumption of predatory fish species shown to have elevated mercury concentrations in previous studies.
Mercury exposure is particularly concerning for women of childbearing age as it can damage the nervous system, kidneys, and cardiovascular system. Developing organ systems, such as the foetal nervous system, are the most sensitive to the toxic effects of mercury, although nearly all organs are vulnerable.
This study underscores the importance of biomonitoring mercury pollution. Although the subjects in this study represent small selected populations, the information gained contributes to overall global information on mercury concerns. Mercury contamination is ubiquitous in marine and freshwater systems around the world. Biological mercury hotspots are globally common and are related to a variety of human activities. For these reasons, it is critical that we continue biomonitoring efforts to track potential impacts on local communities and on the environment in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the Minamata Convention.
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