Issue Date: August 11, 2014
Amount Of Mercury In Oceans Rises
Surface waters of the world’s oceans contain nearly three times as much mercury as they did at the start of the Industrial Revolution, says a team of international researchers. The team, led by marine chemist Carl H. Lamborg of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, analyzed water samples collected at various depths from the Atlantic, Pacific, Southern, and Arctic oceans. The researchers report that ocean waters shallower than 1,000 meters deep show a 2.6 times increase in their amount of mercury since preindustrial times (Nature 2014, DOI: 10.1038/nature13563). Over the same time, the quantity of mercury in the world’s oceans as a whole has doubled, they report. They suggest follow-up studies to determine the extent to which methyl mercury concentrations in fish have changed since the rise of industrialization and might change in the future given that mercury releases caused by human activities continue to grow. The widespread burning of coal, which contains trace levels of mercury, is largely responsible for the increasing emissions of the neurotoxic metal. Mining operations also release mercury.
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