Graduation Year

2010

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Major Professor

Maya Trotz, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Fenda Akiwumi, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Mark Rains, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Amy Stuart, Ph.D.

Keywords

methyl-mercury, global mercury cycle, fish, gold mining, environmentalsustainability, education

Abstract

Tampa (US), Guyana (SA), and Bolivia (SA), are geographically, socially, economically, and politically unique which make them ideal sites to study issues of mercury and sustainability. Mercury’s innate ability to bioaccumulate and biomagnify in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems poses a severe threat to both human and environmental health. The most vulnerable populations affected by mercury consumption include coastal communities, children, women of child-bearing age, the indigenous poor and persons with high environmental/occupational exposure factors. Communities in the regions of Florida, Bolivia, and Guyana whose diets are high in fish and are environmentally/occupationally exposed to mercury may be at a higher risk of mercury intoxication, especially in the absence of education on the topic. Mercury loadings in rivers, streams, and mine tailing waters and sediments ranged from 0.9-114 ng/L and 29- 2891 ng/g, respectively; whilst fish mercury loadings were 0.02-1.034 mg/kg wet wt. Although mining sites had the highest mercury sediment and water loadings there were no significant differences when compared to pristine sites in Guyana. Fish loadings above recommended EPA/WHO regulatory limits were observed at all sites and none had signage, informational warnings or educational material available. A pilot study that included four elementary schools in Tampa showed that Water Awareness Research Education (WARE), a community based participatory environmental educational program, is a sustainable solution to addressing issues of mercury exposure.

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