Rethinking the Minamata Tragedy: What Mercury Species was really Responsible?
Research output: Contribution to journal › Article
Industrial release of mercury into the local Minamata environment with consequent poisoning of local communities through contaminated fish and shellfish consumption is considered the classic case of environmental mercury poisoning. However, the mercury species in the factory effluent has proved controversial, originally suggested as inorganic, and more recently as methylmercury species. We used newly-available methods to re-examine the cerebellum of historic Cat 717, which was fed factory effluent mixed with food to confirm the source. Synchrotron high energy resolution fluorescence detection-X-ray absorption spectroscopy (HERFD-XAS) revealed sulfur-bound organometallic mercury with a minor β-HgS phase. Density functional theory (DFT) indicated energetic preference for α-mercuri-acetaldehyde as a waste product of aldehyde production. The consequences of this alternative species in the "classic" mercury poisoning should be re-evaluated.
|Journal||Environmental Science & Technology|
|Publication status||E-pub ahead of print - 2020 Jan 17|