A US and Canadian research team surveying mercury contamination in fish and birds in the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada has identified five "hotspots" where concentrations of the element exceed those established for human or wildlife health.
The team focused on levels of the potent neurotoxin in yellow perch and common loons, but it also took into account contamination in other fish, birds, and mammals. In addition to these hotspots in New England, New York, and Nova Scotia, the researchers found nine "areas of concern" in these regions and in Quebec and New Brunswick. Findings from the team's analysis are summarized in the January 2007 issue of BioScience.
The hotspots are believed to result from complex processes that move atmospherically released mercury through the environment, and from site-specific characteristics such as the high sensitivity of wetlands and forested areas to mercury inputs. Local sources of mercury are also significant. Although mercury is not directly harmful at ambient levels, it is concentrated up to a millionfold and chemically modified in aquatic food chains, resulting in dangerous levels of methylmercury in some wildlife species. Fish consumption advisories responding to mercury contamination exist in all the states and provinces included in the study, and loons are adversely affected by mercury levels they experience.
The hotspots have implications for "cap and trade" approaches being implemented for regulation of emissions from coal-fired electric power stations, which, along with municipal waste incinerators, are major sources of mercury pollution. Cap and trade approaches seek to reduce the total release of mercury but could lead to static or increased emissions in some areas. Greater deposition of mercury near areas that are highly sensitive to the element or that are already affected by it could raise the risk to people and wildlife that consume fish. There is reason to believe, however, that lowering emissions can reduce risk: an analysis of levels of mercury contamination over time in the Merrimack River watershed suggests that lowered emissions reduced mercury levels in biota within a few years.
The 10-member research team was led by David C. Evers of the BioDiversity Research Institute in Gorham, Maine. The study was based on samples collected over four years by the Northeastern Ecosystem Research Cooperative and made use of 7311 observations for seven species. The study report in BioScience is accompanied by an overview article, written by Charles T. Driscoll of Syracuse University and colleagues, that summarizes current knowledge about mercury contamination in the region; the authors conclude that reductions in mercury emissions beyond those currently under way will be needed to eliminate the element as a health risk to humans or to populations of loons.
Donna Royston | EurekAlert!
Individual Receptors Caught at Work
19.10.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
Rapid environmental change makes species more vulnerable to extinction
19.10.2017 | Universität Zürich
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.
It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
19.10.2017 | Materials Sciences
19.10.2017 | Materials Sciences
19.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy