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THE THREAT POSED BY MERCURY TO HUMANS AND MARINE LIFE

A new study has found that the amount of mercury near the surface of many of the world’s oceans has tripled due to human polluting activities. These findings highlight that the accumulation of the toxic metal can potentially have damaging implications for marine life.

Experts outline that mercury is accumulating in the surface layers of the seas faster than in the deep ocean: people pour this element into the atmosphere and seas from a variety of sources, including mines, coal-fired power plants and sewage. In relation to that alarming situation, researchers warn that mercury is toxic to humans and marine life.

Data show that since the industrial revolution, the mercury content of superficial ocean layers have tripled. According to some experts of the journal Nature, due to mercury deposited in water and in the air, even remote areas, far from industrial sources, can suffer from elevated levels of this toxic material.

Scientists have strongly warned against the consequences of this situation for the most vulnerable groups such as pregnant women and small children. These experts have suggested the importance for these groups to limit the consumption of certain fish, including swordfish and king mackerel: studies have shown that toxic metals such as mercury and lead have been accumulating in these species, making their consumption dangerous to human health.

In this context, experts have argued that pollution caused by the high levels of mercury represents an important alarm call for the future, stressing the urgency to undertake stricter measures to overcome the alarming and severe consequences on humans and marine life.

Moreover, analysis have revealed that mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants can be reduced with chemical filters. However, developing countries lack the adequate instruments and mechanisms to achieve these results.

Additionally, studies show that the situation is even more serious in relation to the metal from sewage: developing countries need to reinforce their commitment in order to establish the treatment systems required to reduce the impact of mercury.

 

The gLAWcal Team

EPSEI project

Wednesday, 06 August 2014

(source: The Guardian)