The highest levels of silver contamination ever observed in the open ocean turned up in samples collected during a survey of the North Pacific in 2002. Researchers from the University of California, Santa Cruz, measured silver concentrations 50 times greater than the natural background level. Though still well below levels that would be toxic to marine life, this contamination of what had been considered relatively pristine waters highlights the increasingly global impact of industrial emissions from Asia, the researchers said.
"The most likely source of the silver contamination is atmospheric emissions from coal burning in Asia," said Russell Flegal, professor of environmental toxicology at UCSC. "Silver concentrations in the North Pacific trace the atmospheric depositions of industrial aerosols from Asia, with the highest concentrations in those waters closest to the Asian mainland."
Mara Ranville, a researcher in Flegals lab who earned her Ph.D. in December, collected the samples on a 35-day cruise in the summer of 2002 as part of the Global Investigation of Pollution in the Marine Environment (GIPME), a program of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. Ranville and Flegal reported their findings in the March 9 issue of Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, an electronic journal published by the American Geophysical Union and the Geochemical Society.
Tim Stephens | EurekAlert!
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