Tag: Mercury

Mercury pollution worsens in remote Arctic realms

A USGS study will try to determine how global warming will affect polar bear populations.

Coal power plants still to blame for emitting most of the toxic mercury pollution

Staff Report

Mercury continues to build up in Arctic ecosystems at levels that threaten the health and well-being of people, wildlife and waterways in the region.

A new study that looks at the sources of the toxic metal shows that airborne mercury is gathering in the Arctic tundra, where it gets deposited in the soil and ultimately runs off into waters. Scientists have long reported high levels of mercury pollution in the Arctic. The new research identifies gaseous mercury as its major source and sheds light on how the element gets there. Continue reading “Mercury pollution worsens in remote Arctic realms”

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Study tracks big drop in global mercury emissions

Mercury from the Craig Station power plant in northwest Colorado pollutes lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Mercury from the Craig Station power plant in northwest Colorado pollutes lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park. @bberwyn photo.

Local, regional controls help improve global picture

Staff Report

Global mercury emissions dropped by nearly a third between 1990 and 2010, according to a new study that tried to identify patterns and trends in mercury pollution.

Rapid economic development in Asia means higher mercury emissions, but reductions in North America were enough to offset the increases, according to scientists from China, Germany, Canada and the U.S.

Mercury is a metallic element that poses environmental health risks to both wildlife and humans when converted to methylmercury in ecosystems.  It can be converted into gaseous emissions during various industrial activities, as well as natural processes like volcanic eruptions. Continue reading “Study tracks big drop in global mercury emissions”

Environment: Mercury deposition increasing in West and Midwest

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Mercury emissions from power plants are a global issue.

Asia’s power plants affect U.S. environment

Staff Report

Mercury levels in precipitation are increasing in the central U.S. but steadily dropping along the East Coast, scientists reported in a new study.

The findings suggest that mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants in Asia are on the rise, while they are decreasing in North America, according to Peter Weiss-Penzias, an environmental toxicologist at UC Santa Cruz who was the lead author of the study.

Mercury is a toxic element released into the environment through a variety of human activities, including the burning of coal, as well as by natural processes. Rainfall washes mercury out of the atmosphere and into soils and surface waters. Bacteria convert elemental mercury into a more toxic form, methyl mercury, which becomes increasingly concentrated in organisms higher up the food chain. Mercury concentrations in some predatory fish are high enough to raise health concerns. Continue reading “Environment: Mercury deposition increasing in West and Midwest”

Elephant seal molt raises mercury levels in coastal water

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Elephant seals at Año Nuevo. Photo courtesy California State Parks.

Reasearchers link seasonal fluctuations in toxin with elephant seal fur

Staff Report

FRISCO — So much mercury has accumulated in the ocean food chain that, when northern California sea lions molt their fur, the toxic substance can traced in the water.

Mercury is one of those toxins that just keeps building up. It never really goes away, but just changes form. That’s a real problem i the marine environment, because the most toxic variation, methyl mercury, is readily absorbed and accumulates in the bodies of marine organisms. Continue reading “Elephant seal molt raises mercury levels in coastal water”

Pollution runs deep in the Colorado River

The confluence of Havasu Creek with the Colorado River (river mile 157) is a popular place for boaters to stop and admire the striking blue-green water of Havasu Creek. The turquoise color is caused by water with a high mineral content. At the point where the blue creek meets the turbid colorado river there often appears a definite break. NPS photo by Erin Whittaker.
The confluence of Havasu Creek with the Colorado River (river mile 157) is a popular place for boaters to stop and admire the striking blue-green water of Havasu Creek. The turquoise color is caused by water with a high mineral content. At the point where the blue creek meets the turbid colorado river there often appears a definite break. NPS photo by Erin Whittaker.

Fish in the Grand Canyon show levels of mercury and selenium that exceed risk thresholds for wildlife

Staff Report

FRISCO — Pollution runs deep in the Colorado River, according to U.S. Geological Survey scientists who recently documented traces of mercury and selenium contamination in fish living in the Grand Canyon.

Similar studies have documented mercury contamination in fish in Rocky Mountain National Park. In the bigger picture, the USGS has also documented mercury contamination in 25 percent of U.S. streams. In the Arctic, polar bears are being exposed to similar contaminants. Continue reading “Pollution runs deep in the Colorado River”

Researchers track origins of mercury in coastal California fog

A layer of marine fog hugs the coastline at San Francisco Bay in this satellite image from the NASA Earth Observatory project. Click on the image to visit the NASA site.
A layer of marine fog hugs the coastline at San Francisco Bay in this satellite image from the NASA Earth Observatory project. Click on the image to visit the NASA site.

Fog dripping from coastal plants can deposit significant amounts of mercury in the soil

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Toxic heavy metals are known for their persistence in the ecosphere, with substances like mercury accumulating in to sometimes dangerous levels in parts of the food chain.

In a new study, UC Santa Cruz researchers have tried to determine the source of mercury in California’s coastal fog, and say that it may be coming from the upwelling of deep ocean water along the coast.

Lead researcher Peter Weiss-Penzias, an environmental toxicologist, said the elevated levels of mercury are not a human health concern, but the fog does ultimately deposit significant amounts of mercury on land as it condenses and drips off coastal vegetation.

“These are parts-per-trillion levels, so when we say elevated, that’s relative to what was expected in atmospheric water,” Weiss-Penzias said. “The levels measured in rain have always been fairly low, so the results from our first measurements in fog were surprising.” Continue reading “Researchers track origins of mercury in coastal California fog”

Oceans: Study tests dolphins for mercury exposure

Dolphins off the coast of Florida have been exposed to more mercury than captive dolphins fed a controlled diet. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

Results suggest that Florida coastal waters have high levels of the toxic metal

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A new study by researchers from The Johns Hopkins University and The National Aquarium shows that wild dolphins have higher levels of mercury than their captive cousins, suggesting that mercury pollution in the oceans is a continuing problem.

The captive animals were fed a controlled diet, while the wild mammals dined on marine life that may carry more of the toxic metal.

The study found lower levels of mercury in the captive animals, particularly compared to wild dolphins tested off the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of Florida, a state that is in the path of mercury-laden fumes from power plants. The aquarium dolphins are fed smaller fish from North Atlantic waters, where mercury pollution is less prevalent. Continue reading “Oceans: Study tests dolphins for mercury exposure”