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Western land, wildlife contaminated with mercury


Cara J

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An extensive analysis led by the U.S. Geological Survey has found widespread mercury contamination in western habitats and wildlife. Mercury levels varied from place to place, fluctuating with factors such as hydrology and climate. Moreover, it turned out that levels of inorganic mercury — the relatively benign form of mercury common in air and soil — was a poor indicator of the threat to people and animals. Areas with low inorganic mercury tended to have high levels of methylmercury, the toxic form of the element that insinuates itself into food webs. “One of the most surprising and compelling patterns that we found was a very large disconnect between the distribution of inorganic mercury in the environment in comparison to the distribution of methylmercury in biological communities,” said Collin Eagles-Smith, a research ecologist with the USGS and an author of several studies published in a special issue of Science of the Total Environment. “Where you have high inorganic mercury does not necessarily equate to elevated risk to fish, wildlife and humans.” Most of Earth’s mercury is in inorganic forms. These compounds can be released into the environment through natural processes such as volcanic eruptions, as well as by human actions such as mining, [...]

 

Read more: http://wildlife.org/western-land-wildlife-contaminated-with-mercury/

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