Study: Because of Coal Burning the Oceans Are Polluted With Mercury

Study: Because of Coal Burning the Oceans Are Polluted With Mercury

Researchers from the University of Michigan (UoM) have concluded that 80% of the mercury (methylmercury) found in deep-feeding North Pacific fish is produced by the deep oceans themselves.

Species of fish studied were:

• Flying fish
• Mahi-Mahi
• Bigeye tuna
• Swordfish
• Lantern fish
• Yellowfin tuna
• Skipjack tuna
• Moonfish (opah)

On shores near Hawaii, the team analyzed fish from North Pacific fisheries and noted that rainfall from India and China are the culprit. The pollution from coal burning power plants is the source of mercury.

Joel Blum, environmental scienst with the UoM, said: “This study reinforces the links between mercury emitted from Asian countries and the fish that we catch off Hawaii and consume in this country. The implications are that if we’re going to effectively reduce the mercury concentrations in open-ocean fish, we’re going to have to reduce global emissions of mercury, including emissions from places like China and India. Cleaning up our own shorelines is not going to be enough. This is a global atmospheric problem.”

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warn that “nearly all fish and shellfish contain traces of mercury. Some fish and shellfish contain higher levels of mercury that may harm an unborn baby or young child’s developing nervous system. The risks from mercury in fish and shellfish depend on the amount of fish and shellfish eaten and the levels of mercury in the fish and shellfish.”

The UN Environmental Program (UNEP) released a report that states mercury levels in the world’s oceans have doubled in the past century because of human activity and will require international intervention in order to fix.

The UNEP Global Mercury Assessment 2013 “provides the most recent information available on worldwide atmospheric mercury emissions, releases to the aquatic environment, and the transport and fate of mercury in the global environment.”

According to the report, areas in Africa, Asia and South America are seeing noticeable increases in mercury emissions due to small-scale gold mining and coal burning plants that provide electricity.

Achim Steiner, director of the UNEP said that mercury pollution is “a major global, regional and national challenge in terms of threats to human health and the environment”; however with the implementation of new technologies, the risk can be reduced.

Last June, President Obama spoke at Georgetown University to convince the audience that carbon dioxide emissions emanating from coal-burning plants should be severely restricted through new governmental regulations.

Senator Joe Manchin said that the Obama administration is “using every tool they have to destroy the most abundant, reliable and affordable resource that we have.”

Susanne Posel

Susanne Posel

Chief Editor | Investigative Journalist

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