Toxicity of dietary methylmercury to fish: Derivation of ecologically meaningful threshold concentrations



Threshold concentrations associated with adverse effects of dietary exposure to methylmercury (MeHg) were derived from published results of laboratory studies on a variety of fish species. Adverse effects related to mortality were uncommon, whereas adverse effects related to growth occurred only at dietary MeHg concentrations exceeding 2.5 µg g−1 wet weight. Adverse effects on behavior of fish had a wide range of effective dietary concentrations, but generally occurred above 0.5 µg g−1 wet weight. In contrast, effects on reproduction and other subclinical endpoints occurred at dietary concentrations that were much lower (<0.2 µg g−1 wet wt). Field studies generally lack information on dietary MeHg exposure, yet available data indicate that comparable adverse effects have been observed in wild fish in environments corresponding to high and low MeHg contamination of food webs and are in agreement with the threshold concentrations derived here from laboratory studies. These thresholds indicate that while differences in species sensitivity to MeHg exposure appear considerable, chronic dietary exposure to low concentrations of MeHg may have significant adverse effects on wild fish populations but remain little studied compared to concentrations in mammals or birds. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2012; 31: 1536–1547. © 2012 SETAC