Mercury pollution in Malaysia

Although several studies have been published on levels of mercury contamination of the environment, and of food and human tissues in Peninsular Malaysia, there is a serious dearth of research that has been performed in East Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak). Industry is rapidly developing in East Malaysia, and, hence, there is a need for establishing baseline levels of mercury contamination in environmental media in that part of the country by performing monitoring studies. Residues of total mercury and inorganic mercury in food samples have been detected in nearly all previous studies that have been conducted; however, few researchers have analysed samples for the presence of methylmercury residues. Because methylmercury is the most toxic form of mercury, and because there is a growing public awareness of the risk posed by methylmercury exposure that is associated with fish and seafood consumption, further monitoring studies on methylmercury in food are also essential. From the results of previous studies, it is obvious that the economic development in Malaysia, in recent years, has affected the aquatic environment of the country. Primary areas of environmental concern are centred on the rivers of the west Peninsular Malaysian coast, and the coastal waters of the Straits of Malacca, wherein industrial activities are rapidly expanding. The sources of existing mercury input to both of these areas of Malaysia should be studied and identified. Considering the high levels of mercury that now exists in human tissues, efforts should be continued, and accelerated in the future, if possible, to monitor mercury contamination levels in the coastal states, and particularly along the west Peninsular Malaysian coast. Most studies that have been carried out on mercury residues in environmental samples are dated, having been conducted 20-30 years ago; therefore, the need to collect much more and more current data is urgent. Furthermore, establishing baseline levels of mercury exposure to humans in Malaysia will be useful in establishing the levels at which detrimental effects in both humans and marine life may occur, and therefore the levels at which warnings should be raised or limits established. In particular, the authors believe that two or three monitoring centres should be established in Peninsular Malaysia, and one in East Malaysia for the specific purpose of monitoring for the presence of hazardous environmental chemicals, and particularly monitoring for heavy metals such as mercury that reach food that is subject to consistent human consumption.

Authors: Hajeb, Parvaneh; Jinap, S.; Ismail, Ahmad; Mahyudin, Nor Ainy ;Full Source: Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 2012, 220, 45-66 (English) ;