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A quick test for mercury in seafood.

Mercury, a substance harmful to growing nervous systems, can dangerously contaminate food, especially fish. But checking for mercury requires lots of time and costly equipment. Now, researchers are developing a simple, portable, mercury- contamination test kit that commercial fishermen could use at sea, reports Lawrence Carlson, a biochemist at BioNebraska in Lincoln.

A seafarer would add a fish sample to a dissolving agent, then put drops of the mixture into coated wells on a test plate. Mercury-tainted samples would turn green. The test responds to methylmercury, a compound formed in waterborne plants and microbes that accumulates in the food chain.

Although natural events such as volcano eruptions release mercury into the environment, the mass production of batteries, munitions, fungicides, and latex paint has furthered its spread, Carlson says.

The scientists adapted the quick fish test from a similar kit used to detect mercury in water and soil at toxic waste sites. So far, the test has worked well with samples of alligator, bass, swordfish, tuna, shark, and scallops, they report.
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Title Annotation:mercury-contamination kit can be used at sea
Author:Lipkin, Richard
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Apr 15, 1995
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