Date of Award

2017

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Department

Environmental Health Sciences

Sub-Department

The Norman J. Arnold School of Public Health

First Advisor

Virginia Shervette

Abstract

A rising concern in recent years has occurred over the presence of methylmercury in seafood, particularly fishes, and its impact on human health. However, fish also provide many health benefits, including improved cardiovascular health and neurodevelopment. Because fishes are the main source of methylmercury exposure to humans, and are such an integral part of the human diet, understanding the risks versus the benefits of fish consumption is imperative in allowing the public to make healthy, educated choices. One way that state and federal governments attempt to do this is through issuing fish consumption advisories. Unfortunately, these advisories do not always reflect mercury concentrations at the local level, and do not always focus on fish species that are commonly caught and consumed by local fishers. The objectives of this study were to examine the mercury concentrations of three commonly caught and consumed estuarine fishes (Southern Kingfish, Croaker, and Weakfish) in South Carolina in order to provide localized information for fish consumption advisories. The mean mercury levels for the three species were consistent with those reported in similar studies, as well as the trend of increasing levels of mercury with an increase in age, size, and weight. The mean mercury levels of all three species were low and all fell below the posted state and national levels of concern for mercury consumption in fishes. These findings support the idea that the health benefits of consuming certain species of commonly caught inshore species outweigh the potential concern from mercury contamination. Hopefully, increased research into similar, smaller inshore fish species such as the ones in this study can provide policy-makers with more localized data to educate affected human populations.

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