Mercury contamination in consumed foods poses a significant threat to human health globally. The consumption of mercury-contaminated turtle meat is of special concern due to mercury’s capability to bioaccumulate and biomagnify in organisms. Turtles are long-lived predators, allowing for a high degree of bioaccumulation and biomagnification of contaminants. In the U.S., diamondback terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin) are legally harvested in several states throughout their range. Harvested turtles are usually sold to both local and global markets mainly for human consumption, which results in a human consumption threat. The objective of this study was to analyze mercury concentrations to determine if the consumption of terrapins poses a threat to human health. Diamondback terrapins were collected from two study sites: Cape May and Hackensack Meadowlands, New Jersey, relatively pristine and contaminated estuaries, respectively. Turtle carapace, blood, and muscle samples were analyzed for total mercury concentrations. Results showed significant difference between study sites and females’ and males’ blood mercury concentrations. Similarly, results showed blood mercury correlated with carapace length. Results also showed that 50% of Cape May muscle samples and 72.7% Meadowlands muscles samples surpassed the New Jersey sensitive threshold of 0.18 ppm. Furthermore, 27.3% of Cape May muscle samples and 45.5% of Meadowlands muscles samples surpassed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s mercury threshold of 0.3 ppm for seafood consumption for the general public. Overall, the harvest of terrapins could pose a threat to consumers, and terrapins should be monitored closely or possibly banned for human consumption, especially in areas with known contamination history.
- Diamondback terrapin
- Human consumption safety