All Publications

  • Large-Scale Observations Support Aboveground Vegetation as an Important Biological Mercury Sink in the Tibetan Plateau. Environmental science & technology Chu, Z., Zhou, Y., Liu, M., Lin, H., Cheng, M., Xie, H., Yuan, L., Zhang, Z., Zhang, Q., Li, C., Chen, Y., Guo, Y., Chen, L., Wang, X. 2023


    Mercury, a pervasive global pollutant, primarily enters the atmosphere through human activities and legacy emissions from the land and oceans. A significant portion of this mercury subsequently settles on land through vegetation uptake. Characterizing mercury storage and distribution within vegetation is essential for comprehending regional and global mercury cycles. We conducted an unprecedented large-scale aboveground vegetation mercury survey across the expansive Tibetan Plateau. We find that mosses (31.1 ± 0.5 ng/g) and cushion plants (15.2 ± 0.7 ng/g) outstood high mercury concentrations. Despite exceptionally low anthropogenic mercury emissions, mercury concentrations of all biomes exceeded at least one-third of their respective global averages. While acknowledging the role of plant physiological factors, statistical models emphasize the predominant impact of atmospheric mercury on driving variations in mercury concentrations. Our estimations indicate that aboveground vegetation on the plateau accumulates 32-12+21 Mg (interquartile range) mercury. Forests occupy the highest biomass and store 82% of mercury, while mosses, representing only 3% of the biomass, disproportionally contribute 13% to mercury storage and account for 43% (2.5-1.4+3.0 Mg/year) of annual mercury assimilation by vegetation. Additionally, our study underscores that extrapolating aboveground vegetation mercury storage from lower-altitude regions to the Tibetan Plateau can lead to substantial overestimation, inspiring further exploration in alpine ecosystems worldwide.

    View details for DOI 10.1021/acs.est.3c05164

    View details for PubMedID 37919873

  • Biotransport of mercury and human methylmercury exposure through crabs in China-A life cycle-based analysis JOURNAL OF HAZARDOUS MATERIALS Zhang, Z., Chen, L., Cheng, M., Liu, M., Wang, X. 2021; 415: 125684


    Exposure to methylmercury (MeHg) has various toxic effects on humans. The evaluation of human MeHg exposure has previously focused on fish consumption. However, in this study, we found that MeHg levels in domestic crabs in China were also relatively high (range: 50-1400 ng/g, dry weight). The high MeHg levels in crabs and their high consumption do not match the risk assessment of MeHg, indicating an underestimated exposure risk, especially in MeHg-sensitive groups such as pregnant women. The annual crab MeHg content output in China was estimated to be 30 ± 27 kg. A total of 6.8% of the country's land area contributes 71% of the MeHg output. However, 66% of the output is redistributed to non-crab-producing regions via interregional food trade, posing risks to the population on a national scale. The daily intake of MeHg from crabs could easily exceed the reference dose (0.1 µg/kg of body weight per day) suggested by the United States Environmental Protection Agency with consideration of coexposure from fish, rice, and other food sources. We suggest that future MeHg exposure analysis includes crab MeHg as a coexposure pathway to estimate the dietary MeHg limit accurately and emphasize the influence of interregional food trade on MeHg exposure.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.jhazmat.2021.125684

    View details for Web of Science ID 000657745400008

    View details for PubMedID 33765564

  • Human Methylmercury Exposure and Potential Impacts in Central Tibet: Food and Traditional Tibetan Medicine BULLETIN OF ENVIRONMENTAL CONTAMINATION AND TOXICOLOGY Cheng, M., Liu, M., Li, D., Luo, Q., Zhang, Z., Yuan, L., Yu, C., Xie, H., Lin, H., Zhang, Q., Ji, D., Wang, X. 2021


    Methylmercury presents potent neurotoxicity to humans. Fish consumption is the leading source of human exposure to methylmercury worldwide. However, the exposure source in Tibet remains poorly understood because of the scarcity of observational data on most Tibetan foods, although high mercury levels were recently detected in some traditional Tibetan medicines. Here, the results of field investigations show that the joint consumption of traditional Tibetan medicines (TTMs), fish, and rice constitutes a primary exposure pathway to methylmercury in Tibetans and that the probable daily intake of methylmercury is close to that for many coastal regions. People who are young and high-income may have higher methylmercury exposure levels mainly because of economic development and cultural exchanges among regions. Our analysis indicates that a large proportion of the Tibetan population are likely to face a high methylmercury exposure risk and that mercury-susceptible populations in Tibet should be attentive to consuming TTMs with fish.

    View details for DOI 10.1007/s00128-021-03216-5

    View details for Web of Science ID 000639055400001

    View details for PubMedID 33839798