All of our publications can be found on Google Scholar. Below are some recent contributions.

Effect of cooking temperature on metal concentrations and speciation in fish muscle and seal liver

Fish and marine mammals constitute a significant part of the country food diet of many Indigenous communities in Canada. These animals sometimes accumulate essential elements as well as elevated levels of toxic metals. We experimentally assessed how changes in cooking temperature (23–99 °C by boiling) modified elemental concentrations in whitefish muscle and grey seal liver (two organs commonly consumed in some northern communities). Wet and dry elemental concentrations changed linearly as a function of temperature, and two patterns were observed: methylmercury, selenium, and rare earth elements tended to remain associated with the food during cooking, whereas alkali, alkaline-earth metals, and arsenic were significantly transferred to cooking juices. Mass balances indicated that speciation of mercury was stable during cooking. Because elements generally behaved similarly as those of their periodic table group or their ecotoxicological classes (A, B, intermediate), we propose that elemental behavior during cooking is partly a function of chemical affinity, and this relationship can be used to predict the behavior of data-poor elements of emerging concern, such as technology-critical elements. Furthermore, the marked increases and decreases in elemental concentrations during cooking (e.g., −14% As and +39% Se in whitefish; −22% Cd and +55% Hg in seal liver, on a wet weight basis) should be considered when assessing risk because current exposure models usually only consider elemental concentrations in raw food.

Assessment of in vitro bioaccessibility and in vivo oral bioavailability as complementary tools to better understand the effect of cooking on methylmercury, arsenic, and …

T Charette, D Bueno Dalto, M Rosabal, JJ Matte, M AmyotToxics 9 (2), 27
Fish consumption is the main exposure pathway of the neurotoxicant methylmercury (MeHg) in humans. The risk associated with exposure to MeHg may be modified by its interactions with selenium (Se) and arsenic (As). In vitro bioaccessibility studies have demonstrated that cooking the fish muscle decreases MeHg solubility markedly and, as a consequence, its potential absorption by the consumer. However, this phenomenon has yet to be validated by in vivo models. Our study aimed to test whether MeHg bioaccessibility can be used as a surrogate to assess the effect of cooking on MeHg in vivo availability. We fed pigs raw and cooked tuna meals and collected blood samples from catheters in the portal vein and carotid artery at: 0, 30, 60, 90, 120, 180, 240, 300, 360, 420, 480 and 540 min post-meal. In contrast to in vitro models, pig oral bioavailability of MeHg was not affected by cooking, although the MeHg kinetics of absorption was faster for the cooked meal than for the raw meal. We conclude that bioaccessibility should not be readily used as a direct surrogate for in vivo studies and that, in contrast with the in vitro results, the cooking of fish muscle did not decrease the exposure of the consumer to MeHg

Understanding food web mercury accumulation through trophic transfer and carbon processing along a river affected by recent run-of-river dams

DE Ponton, RA Lavoie, M Leclerc, F Bilodeau, D Planas, M AmyotEnvironmental Science & Technology 55 (5), 2949-2959
Unlike large dams which favor methylation of Hg in flooded soils over long periods, run-of-river dams are designed to flood a limited area of soils and are therefore not expected to significantly affect mercury (Hg) cycling or carbon processing. We studied the Hg and carbon cycles within food webs from several sectors along the Saint-Maurice River, Quebec, Canada, that differ in how they are influenced by two run-of-river dams and other watershed disturbances. We observed peak Hg concentrations in fish five-year postimpoundment, but these levels were reduced three years after this peak. Methylmercury concentrations in low trophic level fish and invertebrates were related to their carbon source (δ13C) rather than their trophic positions (δ15N). Biomagnification, measured by trophic magnification slopes, was driven mainly by methylmercury concentrations in low-trophic level organisms and environmental factors related to organic matter degradation and Hg-methylation. River sectors, δ13C and δ15N, predicted up to 80% of the variability in food web methylmercury concentrations. The installation of run-of-river dams and the related pondages, in association with other watershed disturbances, altered carbon processing, promoted Hg-methylation and its accumulation at the base of the food web, and led to a temporary increase in Hg levels in fish.

Microbial Diversity and Mercury Methylation Activity in Periphytic Biofilms at a Run-of-River Hydroelectric Dam and Constructed Wetlands

M Leclerc, MC Harrison, V Storck, D Planas, M Amyot, DA WalshMsphere 6 (2), e00021-21
Monomethylmercury (MMHg) is a biomagnifiable neurotoxin of global concern with risks to human health mostly associated with fish consumption. Hydroelectric reservoirs are known to be sources of MMHg many years after their impoundment. Little is known, however, on run-of-river dams flooding smaller terrestrial areas, although their numbers are expected to increase considerably worldwide in decades to come. Production of MMHg is associated mostly with anaerobic processes, but Hg methylation has been shown to occur in periphytic biofilms located in oxic zones of the water column. Therefore, in this study, we investigated in situ production of MMHg by periphytic communities in habitats impacted by the construction of a run-of-river dam by combining transformation rate measurements with genomic approaches targeting hgcAB genes, responsible for mercury methylation. These results provide extended knowledge on mercury methylators in river ecosystems impacted by run-of-river dams in temperate habitats.

Role of organic matter and microbial communities in mercury retention and methylation in sediments near run-of-river hydroelectric dams

LM Ferriz, DE Ponton, V Storck, M Leclerc, F Bilodeau, DA Walsh, ...Science of the total environment 774, 145686
Run-of-river power plants (RoRs) are expected to triple in number over the next decades in Canada. These structures are not anticipated to considerably promote the mobilization and transport of mercury (Hg) and its subsequent microbial transformation to methylmercury (MeHg), a neurotoxin able to biomagnify in food webs up to humans. To test whether construction of RoRs had an effect on Hg transport and transformation, we studied Hg and MeHg concentrations, organic matter contents and methylating microbial community abundance and composition in the sediments of a section of the St. Maurice River (Quebec, Canada). This river section has been affected by the construction of two RoR dams and its watershed has been disturbed by a forest fire, logging, and the construction of wetlands. Higher total Hg (THg) and MeHg concentrations were observed in the surface sediments of the flooded sites upstream of the RoRs. These peaks in THg and MeHg were correlated with organic matter proportions in the sediments (r2 = 0.87 and 0.82, respectively). In contrast, the proportion of MeHg, a proxy for methylation potential, was best explained by the carbon to nitrogen ratiosuggesting the importance of terrigenous organic matter as labile substrate for Hg methylation in this system. Metagenomic analysis of Hg-methylating communities based on the hgcA functional gene marker indicated an abundance of methanogens, sulfate reducers and fermenters, suggesting that these metabolic guilds may be primary Hg methylators in these surface sediments. We propose that RoR pondages act as traps for sediments, organic matter and Hg, and that this retention can be amplified by other disturbances of the watershed such as forest fire and logging. RoR flooded sites can be conducive to Hg methylation in sediments and may act as gateways for bioaccumulation and biomagnification of MeHg along food webs, particularly in disturbed watersheds.

Photooxidation of arsenic in pristine and mine-impacted Canadian subarctic freshwater systems

M Amyot, D Bélanger, DF Simon, J Chételat, M Palmer, P AriyaJournal of Hazardous Materials Advances 2, 100006
The redox transformations of arsenic (As) in lakes are thought to be mainly controlled by algal/microbial processes. We tested if photochemical oxidation could also be a significant redox process in northern freshwater systems. We exposed filtered natural water samples from four northern mine-impacted lakes (Northwest Territories, Canada) and three unimpacted ponds (Nunavik, Canada) to simulated solar radiation, and followed As(III) oxidation. During short-term incubation experiments (less than 8 h), all samples amended with As(III) displayed a rapid photooxidation (ca. 0.06-0.27 h−1) whereas no significant oxidation was observed in the dark. This photooxidation process was controlled by UV radiation, was influenced by short-lived oxidants and was partly driven by the concentrations of organic matter. Natural As complexes in unamended water samples were more rapidly photooxidized than in samples with As(III) amendments. Addition of goethite or simulation of snowmelt did not alter photooxidation rates significantly. Overall, these results imply that photooxidation of As should be considered as a potentially significant mechanism controlling inorganic As speciation in aquatic systems. This is particularly true for northern systems affected by mining activities and by changes of inputs of organic matter related to climate change.