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      Methylmercury in Industrial Harbor Sediments in Taiwan: First Observations on Its Occurrence, Distribution, and Measurement

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          The distribution of methylmercury (MeHg) and total mercury (T-Hg) in sediments of the estuaries and the basin in Kaohsiung Harbor (Taiwan) is studied. MeHg in the sediment samples was determined using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. The certified reference material of sediments with respect to the method showed the recovery efficiency between 97.4 and 103.6% which confirmed the applicability of analysis method. The T-Hg and MeHg concentrations were between 149 to 9035 μg/kg and <0.31 to 17.7 μg/kg, respectively. The T-Hg and MeHg concentrations in the estuaries of Kaohsiung Harbor were relatively high. Results suggest that Hg in this studied area was likely contributed from the catchments of the rivers. The MeHg level was <0.01 to 2.66% of the T-Hg in the sediments. A positive correlation is obtained between MeHg, T-Hg, and total organic carbon in the sediments, whereas a negative correlation is observed between pH, oxidation-reduction potential, and MeHg concentration. The results further suggest that sediment characteristics contribute mainly to the distribution of MeHg.

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          Most cited references 46

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          Incidence of adverse biological effects within ranges of chemical concentrations in marine and estuarine sediments

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            Mercury in the Aquatic Environment: A Review of Factors Affecting Methylation

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              Mercury methylation by novel microorganisms from new environments.

              Microbial mercury (Hg) methylation transforms a toxic trace metal into the highly bioaccumulated neurotoxin methylmercury (MeHg). The lack of a genetic marker for microbial MeHg production has prevented a clear understanding of Hg-methylating organism distribution in nature. Recently, a specific gene cluster (hgcAB) was linked to Hg methylation in two bacteria.1 Here we test if the presence of hgcAB orthologues is a reliable predictor of Hg methylation capability in microorganisms, a necessary confirmation for the development of molecular probes for Hg-methylation in nature. Although hgcAB orthologues are rare among all available microbial genomes, organisms are much more phylogenetically and environmentally diverse than previously thought. By directly measuring MeHg production in several bacterial and archaeal strains encoding hgcAB, we confirmed that possessing hgcAB predicts Hg methylation capability. For the first time, we demonstrated Hg methylation in a number of species other than sulfate- (SRB) and iron- (FeRB) reducing bacteria, including methanogens, and syntrophic, acetogenic, and fermentative Firmicutes. Several of these species occupy novel environmental niches for Hg methylation, including methanogenic habitats such as rice paddies, the animal gut, and extremes of pH and salinity. Identification of these organisms as Hg methylators now links methylation to discrete gene markers in microbial communities.

                Author and article information

                Department of Marine Environmental Engineering, National Kaohsiung University of Science and Technology, Kaohsiung 81157, Taiwan; dong3762@ (C.-F.C.); yrju@ (Y.-R.J.); plxar1001@ (G.-T.L.)
                Author notes
                [* ]Correspondence: cwchen@ (C.-W.C.); cddong@ (C.-D.C.); Tel.: +886-7-365-0548 (C.-D.C.)
                Int J Environ Res Public Health
                Int J Environ Res Public Health
                International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
                16 August 2018
                August 2018
                : 15
                : 8
                © 2018 by the authors.

                Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (


                Public health

                mercury, methylmercury, estuary, sediments, mehg, kaohsiung, t-hg


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