Certain microorganisms present in sediments convert inorganic mercury to methyl mercury, which is soluble (5 gpl), readily assimilated by aquatic life, and also more toxic than inorganic forms of mercury (Royal Society of Canada 1971). It also becomes more concentrated as it passes up the food chain.
This biological conversion process was regarded as an anaerobic process but was later found to occur even more efficiently under aerobic conditions. The process was first identified with microorganisms, but higher organisms such as chickens also seem to have this conversion capacity.
Was this article helpful?