Mercury in Pacific to Rise by 50% by 2050


Photo via Jessicafm via Flickr CC

According to a new study, if mercury levels continue to rise at the rate they're predicted to rise, the amount of mercury in the Pacific will increase by 50% over the next 40 years. The study also shows just how the mercury in emissions from around the world wind up in the North Pacific Ocean.

"This unprecedented USGS study is critically important to the health and safety of the American people and our wildlife because it helps us understand the relationship between atmospheric emissions of mercury and concentrations of mercury in marine fish," said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.

Indeed, it seems vital to understand it, but more so to change it. Documentaries like Silent Snow illustrate the dangers mercury contamination pose to the animals and people living off the oceans where containments gather.

Now that the study has illuminated how the mercury circulates, we're that much more prepared to cut the sources of the pollution. If not cut, scientists predict that we'll have 50% more mercury in the Pacific by 2050.

So, how does the mercury get into the food stream?

[M]ethylmercury is produced in mid-depth ocean waters by processes linked to the "ocean rain." Algae, which are produced in sunlit waters near the surface, die quickly and "rain" downward to greater water depths. At depth, the settling algae are decomposed by bacteria and the interaction of this decomposition process in the presence of mercury results in the formation of methylmercury. Many steps up the food chain later, predators like tuna receive methylmercury from the fish they appears the recent mercury enrichment of the sampled Pacific Ocean waters is caused by emissions originating from fallout near the Asian coasts. The mercury-enriched waters then enter a long-range eastward transport by large ocean circulation currents," said USGS scientist and coauthor David Krabbenhoft.

Via Science Daily
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