Order a sushi platter in the U.S. and your plate will likely include tuna from the South Pacific, crab from the North Atlantic, and farm-raised shrimp from Asia.
Researchers have long known that exposure to the neurotoxin methylmercury (MeHg) comes almost exclusively from eating seafood. But the geographic origins of that exposure haven’t been well understood.
Now, researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have traced the worldwide origins of methylmercury in the U.S. diet and examined changes in those sources in recent decades, as ecosystems and palates evolved. Understanding the sources of methylmercury exposure in the diet is important in developing strategies to reduce mercury emissions.
“Seafood is one of the last wild foods consumed by humans and an essential source of protein and micronutrients for many populations,” said Elsie Sunderland, the Thomas D. Cabot Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering and senior author of the study. “This work shows that global environmental quality and the health of the oceans affects the food we eat.”
The research is published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.