Current Projects: Research


1. Mercury in Long Island Marine Fish
2. Database of Hg concentrations in commercial and sport fish
3. Pilot Epidemiological Studies

 

1. Mercury in Long Island Marine Fish

P.I.: Roxanne Karimi, Ph.D.

Humans are exposed to mercury (Hg) primarily through the consumption of marine fish. Adults from the NY region, in particular, have elevated Hg concentrations in their bodies compared to other US adults (1). One of the major sources of uncertainty regarding the toxicological effects of Hg is the lack of data on dietary intake, including measurements of Hg concentrations in fish (2).

Surprisingly little is known about general patterns of Hg concentrations in marine fish, or the factors that act to elevate or reduce Hg in fish (3). This project will examine Hg concentrations of a large inventory of fish collected from multiple sampling sites within the NY/Long Island region in collaboration with marine scientists at Stony Brook University. The primary goals of this research are 1) to obtain the most recent Hg concentrations in NY commercial and sport fish and compare them to consumption advisory levels and 2) to identify the environmental and ecological factors that control fish Hg levels. Both goals will lead to an improved understanding of human exposure to Hg through fish consumption in the NY region.

This project is supported by New York Sea Grant R/SHH-17 funded under award NZ10OAR4170064 from the National Sea Grant College Program of the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to the Research Foundation of State University of New York on behalf of New York Sea Grant. The statements, findings, conclusions, views, and recommendations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of any of those organizations.

1. McKelvey, W., et al., A biomonitoring study of lead, cadmium, and mercury in the blood of New York city adults. Environmental Health Perspectives, 2007. 115(10): p. 1435-1441.

2. Council, N.R., Toxicological Effects of Methylmercury. 2000, National Academy Press: Washington D.C. p. 344.

3. Chen, C.Y., et al., Meeting Report: Methylmercury in Marine Ecosystems-From Sources to Seafood Consumers. Environmental Health Perspectives, 2008a. 116(12): p. 1706-1712.

4. Rasmussen, J.B. and M.J. Vander Zanden, The Variation of Lake Food Webs across the Landscape and Its Effect on Contaminant Dynamics, in Food Webs at the Landscape Level, G.A. Polis, M. Power, and G.R. Huxel, Editors. 2004, University of Chicago Press: Chicago. p. 548.

 Publications:

1) Karimi, R., Frisk, M., Fisher, N.S., 2013. Contrasting Food Web Factor and Body Size Relationships with Hg and Se Concentrations in Marine Biota,  PLOS One, Vol. 8:9; e74695.

2)  Karimi, R., Fitzgerald, T.P. and Fisher, N.S., 2012. A Quantitative Synthesis of Mercury in Commercial Seafood and Implications for Exposure in the U.S.,  Environ Health Perspect. 2012 Nov;120(11):1512-9. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1205122. Epub 2012 Jun 25.

There is also a stable URL for the database where any future updates will also be posted: http://knb.ecoinformatics.org/knb/metacat/knb.295/knb 

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2. Database of Hg concentrations in commercial and sport fish

P.I.: Roxanne Karimi, Ph.D.

Understanding patterns of fish Hg concentrations is a critical step toward estimating human exposure to Hg. Humans are primarily exposed to Hg as methylmercury, by consuming fish. One of the largest sources of uncertainty in estimating Hg toxicity to humans is the lack of data on dietary intake, including basic information on fish Hg concentrations (1). Fish Hg concentrations are highly variable, even among individual fish of the same species (1, 2). 

FDA fish consumption advisories are based on limited Hg concentrations in fish (from 1998-2004). Data on Hg concentrations in marine commercial and sport fish are particularly limited. Moreover, we have a poor understanding of local and regional trends in fish mercury levels. There is a clear need for fish consumption advisories to be revised, but this requires a better understanding of variation in fish Hg concentrations.

The fish Hg database, originally compiled by research scientists at the Environmental Defense Fund, is being updated and analyzed by Stony Brook researchers to improve our understanding of species-specific Hg concentrations. This database is particularly valuable because of the lack of any centralized monitoring effort in the US.

Comprehensive, large scale analysis of these data will allow us to examine broad patterns in fish Hg concentrations in the US. We will review the existing database for quality, and revise and update with more recent studies where necessary. Another long-term goal is to launch an internet-based version of the database that acts as a clearinghouse for mercury concentrations in commercial and sport fish for public use by research scientists, thereby providing a source of the most thorough and up-to-date information on mercury concentrations in market fish. The database can serve as a unique monitoring aid for agencies that develop fish consumption advisories.

This project is supported by New York Sea Grant R/SHH-17 funded under award NZ10OAR4170064 from the National Sea Grant College Program of the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to the Research Foundation of State University of New York on behalf of New York Sea Grant. The statements, findings, conclusions, views, and recommendations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of any of those organizations.

1. National Research Council, Toxicological Effects of Methylmercury. 2000, National Academy Press: Washington D.C. p. 344.

2. Rasmussen, J.B. and M.J. Vander Zanden, The Variation of Lake Food Webs across the Landscape and Its Effect on Contaminant Dynamics, in Food Webs at the Landscape Level, G.A. Polis, M. Power, and G.R. Huxel, Editors. 2004, University of Chicago Press: Chicago. p. 548.

 

 Publications:

1) Karimi, R., Fitzgerald, T.P. and Fisher, N.S., 2012. A Quantitative Synthesis of Mercury in Commercial Seafood and Implications for Exposure in the U.S.,  Environ Health Perspect. 2012 Nov;120(11):1512-9. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1205122. Epub 2012 Jun 25.

There is also a stable URL for the database where any future updates will also be posted: http://knb.ecoinformatics.org/knb/metacat/knb.295/knb 

2) Gerber, L.R., Karimi, R. and Fitzgerald, T.P., 2012. Sustaining Seafood for Public Health,  Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 10: 487–493.   

3) Gerber, L.R., Karimi, R. and Fitzgerald, T.P., 2013. Does Trophic Level Predict Seafood Sustainability?Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 11: 122–123. 

4) Karimi, R., Frisk, M., Fisher, N.S., 2013. Contrasting Food Web Factor and Body Size Relationships with Hg and Se Concentrations in Marine Biota,  PLOS One, Vol. 8:9; e74695.

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  3. Pilot Epidemiological Studies

          ARM 1: Health Effects of Exposure to Mercury from Seafood

P.I.: Jaymie Meliker, Ph.D. Co-investigators: Nurcan Gursoy, M.D., Heidi Roppelt, M.D., Raja Jaber, M.D., Rina Awan, M.D., Avram Gold, M.D.

          ARM 2: Long Island Study of Seafood Consumption

P.I.: Jaymie Meliker, Ph.D. Co-investigators: Roxanne Karimi, Ph.D. and Frederick Schiavone, M.D.

Methylmercury (MeHg) is a well-studied contaminant yet we do not know the prevalence of individuals suffering from mercury-related health effects.A study of NYC residents estimated that almost 25% of adults and almost 50% of Asian New Yorkers have blood mercury levels at or above the level considered safe (5.8 µg/L, associated with the USEPA reference dose of 0.1 µg/kg per day) [1]. These findings are consistent with an earlier study that found the Northeast to have among the highest blood Hg levels in the US [2]. Thus, the prevalence of mercury-related health effects in the NY region is thought to be relatively high compared with the rest of the nation.

Health risks associated with low levels of dietary mercury exposure are unclear. High levels of methylmercury (MeHg) exposure through fish consumption have been linked to numerous adverse health effects, including neuropathologies [3-5] neurodevelopmental effects [6, 7], immunotoxicity [6, 8] and cardiovascular effects [3, 5, 9]. Neurotoxicity is thought to be the most sensitive endpoint. However, recent studies indicate that low doses of mercury have measurable, negative effects on the cardiovascular system, possibly at levels at or below that of concern for neurodevelopmental effects [6, 10]. The relative sensitivity of immunologic responses to MeHg-exposure is unknown.

Given case reports of mercury toxicity from fish consumption (e.g., Stony Brook Foundation Board Chairman Mr. Richard Gelfond), a natural objective is to assess whether mercury is commonly associated with detrimental effects in individuals who eat large amounts of fish. Designing an epidemiologic study to answer this question, however, requires estimates of (1) prevalence of elevated mercury levels among those with specific health outcomes (e.g., among those with neurologic challenges, what is the range of mercury exposure?) and (2) prevalence of health effects in those with moderately elevated blood mercury levels; these data currently do not exist.  For this study we have two project arms, ARM 1: assessing blood mercury levels in high fish consuming patients presenting to three different clinics in the Stony Brook area; and ARM 2: targeting avid fish consumers from the general public to assesses health effects and levels of specific biomarkers.  These arms will provide us with data for assessing prevalence of elevated mercury exposure and mercury-related effects for sample size determinations in a potentially larger epidemiologic study, and will provide valuable insights into dose-response relationships for key end points and biomarkers of effect.  

1. McKelvey, W., et al., A biomonitoring study of lead, cadmium, and mercury in the blood of New York city adults. Environmental Health Perspectives, 2007. 115(10): p. 1435-1441.

2. Mahaffey, K.R., R.P. Clickner, and R.A. Jeffries, Adult Women's Blood Mercury Concentrations Vary Regionally in the United States: Association with Patterns of Fish Consumption (NHANES 1999-2004). Environmental Health Perspectives, 2009. 117(1): p. 47-53.

3. Carta, P., et al., Sub-clinical neurobehavioral abnormalities associated with low level of mercury exposure through fish consumption. Neurotoxicology, 2003. 24(4-5): p. 617-623.

4. Weil, M., et al., Blood mercury levels and neurobehavior - Reply. Jama-Journal of the American Medical Association, 2005. 294(6): p. 679-680.

5. Yokoo, E.M., et al., Low level methylmercury exposure affects neuropsychological function in adults. Environmental Health, 2003. 2(8): p. 1-11.

6. Council, N.R., Toxicological Effects of Methylmercury. 2000, National Academy Press: Washington D.C. p. 344.

7. Oken, E., et al., Maternal fish consumption, hair mercury, and infant cognition in a US cohort. Environmental Health Perspectives, 2005. 113(10): p. 1376-1380.

8. Gardner, R.M., et al., Mercury exposure, serum antinuclear/antinucleolar antibodies, and serum cytokine levels in mining populations in Amazonian Brazil: A cross-sectional study. Environmental Research, 2010. 110(4): p. 345-354.

9. Knobeloch, L., et al., Methylmercury exposure in Wisconsin: A case study series. Environmental Research, 2006. 101(1): p. 113-122.

10. Stern, A.H., A review of the studies of the cardiovascular health effects of methylmercury with consideration of their suitability for risk assessment. Environmental Research, 2005. 98(1): p. 133-142.

 

 Publications:

1) Karimi, R., Silbernagel, S.M., Fisher, N.S., Meliker, J.R. 2014  Elevated blood mercury at recommended seafood consumption rates in adult seafood consumers, International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, In press, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijheh.2014.03.007.

2) Karimi, R., Fisher, N.S., Meliker, J.R. 2014. Mercury-nutrient signatures in seafood and in the blood of avid seafood consumers, Science of the Total Environment, In press, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2014.04.049

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Consortium for Interdisciplinary Environmental Research • Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794-5000 • Phone: 631.632.3162 • Fax: 631.632.3770
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