More mercury forms converted to methylmercury than thought

By on August 15, 2013

Diagram of conversion of mercury into methylmercury (Credit: ORNL)

A new study authored by researchers from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory has shown that more forms of mercury can be converted to methylmercury, a deadly compound, than previously known, according to a news release from the laboratory.

Earlier this year, researchers discovered two genes that help water-bound microbes convert oxidized mercury to methylmercury, a neurotoxin that can damage brain and muscle tissue.

Methylmercury accumulates in aquatic species, specifically in larger fish, and can be passed on to humans through consumption of these contaminated species.

This research could be used in the future to target regions where bacteria are most likely to produce methylmercury in order to stop contamination before it starts.

Image: Diagram of conversion of mercury into methylmercury (Credit: ORNL)

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