Environment Mercury Pollution

What is Mercury?

Mercury is one of hundred chemical elements that serve as the basic building blocks of all substance. It occurs naturally in the environment and it cannot be created or destroyed. Mercury is the same shiny, silver-colored material which is found in many thermometers. It's the only metal that exists in liquid form at room temperature and it possesses many unique properties that people have discovered for many years. For example, mercury was commonly used as anti-mildew agent in paints.

Some seeds used to be coated with a mercury-coating compound that prevented seeds from rotting in the ground. Mercury is toxic and this particular use of mercury is considered dangerous. As a result, many countries have laws that prohibit putting mercury in paints and on seeds. But mercury is still used in everyday products such as batteries, disinfectants, dental fillings, light bulbs, and electric switches. Mercury can cause threats to people and the environment, but there is conflict between many experts on the level of this treat.

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Why environmental scientists are concerned about mercury pollution?

Mercury primarily damages the brain and the rest of the nervous system. While mercury does occur naturally in the environment, but as we all know that many scientists are using it in their inventions, sometimes it can reach dangerous levels. For example, hat makers spent long periods of time working with toxic metals, that’s why hat makers often suffer from nervous system disorders. This fact inspired Lewis Carrol to create his mad hatter character in “Alice in wonderland”.

These days we are cautious enough with the metals and most open sources of concentrated mercury have been eliminated; but unfortunately we are still facing various other problems. Scientists have also discovered that all fish are efficient at pulling mercury from the environment and storing it in their muscle. As a result; under certain circumstances this common food source can be contaminated with high levels of mercury. If we eat a lot of contaminated fish, then we are also taking risk of building up dangerous amounts of the poison in our body.

Environmental researchers are currently studying the problem of mercury pollution and are trying to answer to a number of fundamental questions. For example:

How mercury gets into lakes and oceans? How mercury moves through the atmosphere?

What amount of the mercury is a causing environmental problem and come directly from natural sources and how much is redistributed by human activity?

How Mercury moves through the food chain into large predators?

Level of mercury in lakes, oceans, and soil today is different from hundreds or thousands of years ago?

Why some lakes have contaminated fish while others in the same area don't?

How chemical and Biological processes change the types of mercury compounds we find in the environment?

Before we can effectively solve the of mercury pollution, we must find answer to question:

“Is it dangerous to eat fish because of mercury pollution?”

According to best information, it may be dangerous to eat certain types and sizes of fish from certain bodies of water. Fish caught from soft-water lakes typically have the highest concentrations of mercury. If you are a sport fish angler, you should contact your local fish and wildlife resource agency and ask them to send you information about which fish are safe to eat. Women who are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant and young children should be careful about the type fish they eat.