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MercuryDefinition Mercury Pollution:
Humans, animals, plants, air, soil and water get contaminated by chemicals that are normally NOT found in that environment or NOT found in high volume
also called quicksilver
Former name hydrargyrum from Greek
"hydr-" water and "argyros" silver
Boiling point: 674.1°F (356.7°C)
Melting point: -37.89°F (-38.83°C)
Mercury has an interesting cycle on Earth:
Mercury Hg0 is degassing from volcanoes, from water surfaces, from soil + rocks
Mercury is emitted by fossil-fuel-burning power plants
Mercury can look liquid
Mercury can be a gas, poisoning Earth's atmosphere, the mercury vapor can circulate for up to a year
Photo-chemical oxidation starts and it becomes inorganic mercury that can combine with water vapors and travel back to the Earth’s surface.
Today, Mercury is almost in every rain drop, poisoning the soil, the creeks, and lakes
Mercury can converse by bacteria into insoluble mercury-sulfide or methyl-mercury.
Methylmercury is much more toxic than inorganic mercury and it takes much more time for organisms to eliminate methyl-mercury, leading to bio-accumulation.
Humans have significantly contributed to the transfer of mercury from Earth to the atmosphere, and from the land to aquatic systems.
Humans have changed the global mercury cycle.
A few drops of Mercury, nice to look at, dangerous to handle!
Health effects of mercury
Metallic mercury is used in a variety of household products, such as barometers, thermometers and small amounts in fluorescent light bulbs.
The mercury in these devices is trapped and usually does not cause any health problems. However, when a thermometer will break a significantly high exposure to mercury through breathing will occur for a short period of time while it vaporizes. This can cause harmful effects, such as nerve, brain and kidney damage, lung irritation, eye irritation, skin rashes, vomiting and diarrhea.
Mercury has a number of effects on humans, that can all of them be simplified into the following main effects:
- Disruption of the nervous system
- Damage to brain functions
- DNA damage and chromosomal damage
- Allergic reactions, resulting in skin rashes, tiredness and headaches
- Negative reproductive effects, such as sperm damage, birth defects and miscarriages
Damaged brain functions can cause degradation of learning abilities, personality changes, tremors, vision changes, deafness, muscle in-coordination and memory loss.
Chromosomal damage is known to cause mongolism.
Environmental effects of mercury
Mercury from soils can accumulate in mushrooms.
Acidic surface waters can contain significant amounts of mercury. When the pH values are between five and seven, the mercury concentrations in the water will increase due to mobilization of mercury in the ground.
Once mercury has reached surface waters or soils microorganisms can convert it to methyl mercury, a substance that can be absorbed quickly by most organisms and is known to cause nerve damage. Fish are organisms that absorb great amounts of methyl mercury from surface waters every day. As a consequence, methyl mercury can accumulate in fish and in the food chains that they are part of.
The effects that mercury has on animals are kidneys damage, stomach disruption, damage to intestines, reproductive failure and DNA alteration.
In many countries cement kilns that burn hazardous waste are held to a looser standard than are standard hazardous waste incinerators. As a result incinerators are a disproportionate source of mercury pollution. In 2013 140 nations have agreed on a new and legally binding international treaty to reduce harmful emissions of mercury. If this new law is enforced, the poisoning of humans and wildlife can be lowered, but to really make a difference tougher measures are strongly needed.
Governments have promised to cut mercury pollution from mining, utility plants and industrial processes.
Let's hope the best, these new rules are long overdue because Mercury is known to be a poison for centuries.
Mercury is a natural element and cannot be created or destroyed. It can poison the air, the water, the soil, our food!
Humans use and discard mercury in small-scale artisan gold mining, in coal-powered plants, in electronics, consumer products such as electrical switches, thermostats and dental amalgam fillings. In the past Mercury was manufactured into batteries, paints and skin-lightening creams. Imagine that, poison on your skin!
Mercury stays in human and animal bodies, concentrates and accumulates.
The greatest risks are put on pregnant women, women of child-bearing age and young children.
Doctors have told us for decades, that there are no safe limits for the consumption of mercury and its compounds, which can also cause brain and kidney damage, memory loss and language impairment, and severe neurological disorder.
So, can we hope to be less poisoned soon?
50 nations were asked to ratify the Mercury reduction treaty before it comes into force, which officials are still waiting for...
You can see the severity of Mercury poisoning when you look how much Mercury is found in the top 100 m = 110 yards in Earth's oceans: The amount of Mercury has doubled in this areas, and has risen 26% in deeper waters. Asia accounts for just under half of all global releases of mercury. Sorry to report that the new treaty does not contain any obligations to reduce mercury releases to water or any obligations to clean up contaminated sites.
So what can we do to reduce the amount of mercury released into Earth's atmosphere?
Look at this house.|
The photo was taken with an infra-red camera
All the red areas show energy escaping
Energy, electricity produced mainly by coal-fired power-plants,
emitting huge amounts of Mercury
So seal all the leaks in your home put in better insulation
use light bulbs that burn less electricity -
you will save money,
and Earth's environment!
Life on Earth depends on a good balance - some human decisions unbalance Nature, endangering all life on Earth!|
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