Mercury is a poisonous neurotoxin that enters the atmosphere primarily via coal-fired power plants. It can be carried great distances until it is deposited by wind and rain on land and water where it can enter the food chain. In South Carolina, most rivers and lakes have mercury-contaminated fish. In addition to issuing general consumption advisories, the state has issued guidelines regarding consumption of freshwater and certain salt water fish for high risk groups, including women of child-bearing age and children under 14, groups which represent 43% of the South Carolina’s population. For a complete list of up-to-date fish consumption advisories and information for individuals in at risk groups, see: HYPERLINK “https://www.scdhec.gov/environment/water/fish/” https://www.scdhec.gov/environment/water/fish/.
Scientists have studied both local diamond back terrapins and bald eagles as mercury sentinel organisms, animals that can alert us to pollution impacts in the environment. As predators, their bodies accumulate mercury through biomagnification (a process which increases pollutant concentration with each step up the food chain). Learn more about mercury in our waterways.