facebook
twitter
rss
account
search
search
 

Surprising source of arctic mercury seen

May 21, 2012 at 9:35 PM   |   Comments

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., May 21 (UPI) -- Toxic mercury in the arctic, long thought to be coming primarily from atmospheric sources, is also being carried into the region by rivers, U.S. scientists say.

While the atmospheric source has long been studied, new research suggests twice as much mercury actually comes from the flow of circumpolar rivers that carry the element north into the Arctic Ocean, Harvard University researchers reported Monday.

"The arctic is a unique environment because it's so remote from most anthropogenic (human-influenced) sources of mercury, yet we know that the concentrations of mercury in Arctic marine mammals are among the highest in the world," Harvard scientist Jenny A. Fisher said.

"This is dangerous to both marine life and humans. The question from a scientific standpoint is, where does that mercury come from?"

The most important rivers flowing to the Arctic Ocean are in Siberia: the Lena, the Ob, and the Yenisei. Mercury emission from gold, silver, and mercury mines in Siberia may be polluting those rivers, researcher said.

The Arctic Ocean is shallow, which increases its sensitivity to input from rivers, they said.

"The environmental implications of this finding are huge. It means, for example, that climate change could have a very large impact on arctic mercury, larger than the impact of controlling emissions to the atmosphere," Fisher said.

"More work is needed now to measure the mercury discharged by rivers and to determine its origin."

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
Most Popular
1
Android phones to join iPhone in saying no to the police Android phones to join iPhone in saying no to the police
2
Perth's first iPhone buyer immediately drops brand new phone on live TV Perth's first iPhone buyer immediately drops brand new phone on live TV
3
Dogs are the favorite food of leopards in rural India Dogs are the favorite food of leopards in rural India
4
Only 5 billion years until Andromeda Galaxy eats Milky Way Only 5 billion years until Andromeda Galaxy eats Milky Way
5
Tuna fishermen are not happy about proposed marine sanctuary Tuna fishermen are not happy about proposed marine sanctuary
Trending News
Video
x
Feedback