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Bruce K Hope and Jeff Louch Pre-anthropocene mercury residues in North American freshwater fish Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management 10

Article first published online: 23 JAN 2014 | DOI: 10.1002/ieam.1500

Key Points

  • Mercury has been entering the environment from natural sources for millennia but regulatory limits for mercury in fish have declined steadily since the 1960s.
  • Because mercury is naturally occurring, is there a level of mercury in fish below which it is not possible to descend, regardless of regulatory imperatives?
  • Modeling suggests that mercury levels in fish preferred by humans could have exceeded current regulatory limits in prehistoric times due solely to naturally occurring mercury.
  • Attempts to manage mercury to below natural levels may thus be ineffectual, frustrating, and costly for both the regulated community and regulators, which suggests the need for watershed-specific regulatory flexibility when addressing mercury in fish.

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