Microbes that live in rice paddies, northern peat bogs, and other previously unexpected environments are among the bacteria that can generate highly toxic methylmercury, researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center have learned.
This finding, published in Environmental Science and Technology, explains why deadly methylated mercury is produced in areas where the neurotoxin’s presence has puzzled researchers for decades. Methylmercury—the most dangerous form of mercury—damages the brain and immune system and is especially harmful to developing embryos. Certain bacteria transform inorganic mercury into toxic methylmercury. [Read more…]