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OSTP Report on Methylmercury in the Gulf of Mexico

Report Cover: Methylmercury in the Gulf of Mexico - State of knowledge and reasearch needs

In 2002, public concern was raised over reported high levels of methylmercury in commercial fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico, and attention was drawn toward the operation of oil and gas rigs as a possible contributing mercury source. Methylmercury is the most toxic and bioaccumulative form of mercury found in the environment, and although a great deal has been learned about the sources and fate of methylmercury in freshwater systems, comparatively little is known about estuarine and marine systems.

In 2002, the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the Council on Environmental Quality re-convened representatives from the U.S. Geological Survey and other Federal agencies under the National Science and Technology Council’s (NSTC) Committee on the Environment and Natural Resources (CENR) to form the Interagency Working Group on Methylmercury (Working Group) to address this issue. The Working Group published a report titled "Methylmercury in the Gulf of Mexico: State of Knowledge and Research Needs." The report provides policy makers with critically needed information on what is currently known and not known about:

  • Sources of mercury in the Gulf of Mexico region,
  • Occurrence of mercury in the Gulf of Mexico,
  • Cycling, fate, and chemical form of mercury as it relates to human health,
  • Characterization of methylmercury exposure risk,
  • Mitigation and management of risks posed by methylmercury, and
  • Structure and process to address mercury issues in the Gulf of Mexico region.

This issue is particularly important for this region because fish consumption rates are higher than the consumption rates for average Americans. The report will help policy makers make better decisions concerning this sensitive issue.

The Report

Interagency Working Group on Methylmercury, 2004, Methylmercury in the Gulf of Mexico: State of Knowledge and Research Needs: National Science and Technology Council, 21 p.

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