Toronto: That succulent lobster you order at a fancy restaurant might be carrying toxic levels of mercury.
University of Alberta researchers found that harmless inorganic mercury, discharged by industry and coal burning, becomes deadly monomethylmercury in the oceans, which progresses through the food chain from small sea creatures to humans.
Unborn babies and young infants are particularly sensitive to monomethylmercury`s effects. It causes brain and spinal cord damage. Symptoms are abnormal movements (twisting, jerking, or writhing) of the hands, feet, arms or legs while awake.
The research team, led by Alberta doctoral graduate in biological sciences Igor Lehnherr, incubated seawater samples collected from the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, reports the journal Nature Geoscience.
Lehnherr says conversion of inorganic mercury to monomethylmercury accounts for approximately 50 percent of this neurotoxin present in polar marine waters. It could account for a significant amount of the mercury found in Arctic marine organisms, according to an Alberta statement.