Do Two Wrongs Make a Right? Persistent Uncertainties Regarding Environmental Selenium-Mercury Interactions.
Mercury (Hg) is a pervasive environmental pollutant and contaminant of concern for both people and wildlife that has been a focus of environmental remediation efforts for decades. A growing body of literature has motivated calls for revising Hg consumption advisories to co-consider selenium (Se) levels in seafood and implies that remediating aquatic ecosystems with ecosystem-scale Se additions could be a robust solution to Hg contamination. Provided that elevated Se concentrations are also known toxicological threats to aquatic animals, we performed a literature search to evaluate the strength of evidence supporting three assertions underpinning the ameliorating benefits of Se: (1) dietary Se reduces MeHg toxicity in consumers; (2) environmental Se reduces Hg bioaccumulation and biomagnification in aquatic food webs; and (3) Se inhibits Hg bioavailability to, and/or methylmercury production by, microbial communities. Limited or ambiguous support for each criterion indicates that many scientific uncertainties and gaps remain regarding Se mediation of Hg behavior and toxicity in abiotic and biotic compartments. Significantly more information is needed to provide a strong scientific basis for modifying current fish consumption advisories on the basis of Se:Hg ratios or for applying Se amendments to remediate Hg-contaminated ecosystems.
Gerson, JR; Walters, DM; Eagles-Smith, CA; Bernhardt, ES; Brandt, JE
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