Mercury levels in one tuna species have decreased along with industrial emissions of the dangerous chemical element, a new study finds.
The results suggest that reductions in mercury emissions could quickly result in lower mercury levels in some species of ocean fish, according to researcher Nicholas Fisher and colleagues. Fisher is a professor at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, N.Y.
Mercury, a neurotoxin, can harm the nervous system of humans. It accumulates in tuna and other types of fish, which has led to warnings against eating too much tuna, the researchers said in background notes.
Although increased coal burning in Asia has raised mercury emissions globally, levels have fallen in North America 2.8% a year between 1990 and 2007, the researchers said.
Over a similar period, mercury in north Atlantic waters dropped 4.3% annually. And mercury in the air above the North Atlantic Ocean declined 20% from 2001 to 2009, the researchers said. To assess the effects of those declines, the research team analyzed mercury levels in tissue samples from nearly 1,300 Atlantic Bluefin tuna caught between 2004 and 2012. During that time, mercury levels in the fish fell an average of 19%, the researchers said in a news release from the American Chemical Society. The findings were published recently in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
This is significant news - prior studies have shown that mercury levels in North Atlantic fish were increasing by an average of 4% per year. Let’s hope that the restrictions on burning coal (the direct cause of mercury contamination in the air, water and food supply) are not eased with the new political climate in this country.
China has severe pollution issues that they must address for their own well-being. Industrial pollution has created air quality issues over much of mainland China that threatens the health of their population. They can ill afford the health care costs associated with air pollution.
I recycle because it is the right thing to do. However, I often feel that our(my) efforts are too little, too late. Planet earth will eventually just discard us and recover. I believe that the cause of our extinction will be some negative effect on the planet that we did not anticipate rather than a nuclear war. I also think this will happen sooner rather than the distant future.
The Bottom Line:
This study gives me reason to think that maybe, just maybe, we can reverse the damage done to our home planet.
November 23, 2016 National Institutes of Health
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