Hsu-Kim Gives Plenary Lecture at 2017 ICMGP Conference

Heileen Hsu-Kim presented new mercury-related research at the 13th annual International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant.

By Michaela Kane 

Heileen (Helen) Hsu-Kim, the Mary Milus Yoh and Harold L. Yoh, Jr. Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, gave a plenary lecture at the 13th annual International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant (ICMGP) in Providence, Rhode Island. During her presentation, Hsu-Kim discussed the challenges in understanding how mercury cycles through aquatic environments, and how local environmental management efforts can help limit the impacts of mercury contamination in places like watersheds and lakes.

The biennial conference brings together a multitude of researchers who study mercury’s role as a pollutant, including environmental scientists, engineers, earth scientists, public health scientists, and public policy officials. For the 2017 conference, Hsu-Kim and her international team of experts were one of four groups to compose a scientific paper for the meeting, with all papers aimed at addressing the various factors that can accelerate or reduce mercury contamination on local and global scales. The findings from these papers are intended to help inform the implementation of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, the global treaty signed in 2013 to protect human and environmental health from mercury contamination.

“With our paper, our goal was to describe the myriad of processes that control the movement and toxicity of mercury in watersheds and other aquatic ecosystems, and to determine what steps we could take at the local level to manage polluted environments,” says Hsu-Kim. “Mercury is a contaminant that can travel globally through the atmosphere, but we wanted to provide practical knowledge and solutions to people who are in charge of managing risk and policies as specific sites.”

During her lecture, Hsu-Kim discussed how workers at government environmental agencies or engineers overseeing remediation at Superfund sites could use practical solutions to manage mercury contamination in local aquatic environments. For example, Hsu-Kim explained that only certain chemical forms of mercury can build-up in organisms like fish, but regulations on mercury are often based on all forms of the metal, so they aren’t as effective. Instead, the research team recommended that site managers should monitor for the bioavailable forms of mercury, so strategies to minimize risk could be based on decreasing mercury bioavailability.

In addition to Hsu-Kim’s plenary lecture, Chris Eckley, her collaborator from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) led a panel discussion where the team could the answer questions pertaining to their research.

To learn more about the International Conference on mercury as a Global Pollutant, click through to their website at:  http://mercury2017.com/home/overview/

Heileen Hsu-Kim gives a plenary lecture at the 13th annual ICMGP meeting