Mercury emissions need to be significantly reduced with immediate effect in order to curb, and begin reducing the poisonous legacy that we are creating for future generations. This news follows a recent statement issued by research scientists at HarvardUniversity’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS).
The Toxicity of Mercury
Mercury is one of the most toxic of the Earth’s elements. Once thought by the ancients to be beneficial to health, being used in some medicines and ointments, it has since been found to have serious adverse effects on health. It is can damage brain function and affect the central nervous system.
The Damage is Already Done
Mercury is still used today in the manufacture of fluorescent lamps. But, although health and safety regulations across most of the modern world now control the way that used fluorescent lamps are disposed of, preventing the Mercury they contain from entering the environment, the damage has already been done.
Existing Levels of Mercury Contamination will Last Many Decades
Mercury pollution dates back over thousands of years and has accumulated in large bodies of water, including, of course, the oceans. Even at existing levels it will take many decades, and even centuries to significantly reduce the levels that have accumulated in both seas and reservoirs. Whilst contamination in the reservoirs can be dealt with by modern chemical science, Mercury in the ocean is another problem altogether.
The Danger to our Fish-stocks
By far the largest source of mercury contamination comes from coal-fired energy plant emissions and gold mining. The emissions get released into the atmosphere, but are then returned to lakes and the soil, where they eventually get washed into the oceans by our rivers. Once the Mercury enters the aquatic ecosystem, it is then changed into a substance known as Methyl-Mercury by the microbes that exist there. This Methyl-Mercury then accumulates in aquatic life, including the fish that eventually finds its way onto our dinner tables.
Contamination Began Hundreds of Years Ago
Although mercury pollution was dramatically increased by the advent of the Industrial Revolution, it first began many centuries earlier. It was used both by the ancient Greeks and Chinese as a pigmentation in paints, and later by Spanish colonists in central and southern America when it was used as an agent for extracting silver. It was also used substantially during the California gold rush. In other words, Mercury pollution has been around for far longer than many people realise.
The Costs of Dealing with Mercury Contamination
The recent study carried out by the SEAS is based on environmental modelling, using the latest scientific techniques. It is estimated that the cost of dealing with Methyl-Mercury contamination in mainland Europe and the USA is in excess of $15 billion.
Make your own Contribution Now
Protecting our environment for the future is not just something that world governments need to be actively participating in, but ordinary citizens can make their contributions too. Conserving energy helps to reduce mining, and also helps to conserve and husband rare resources. So the energy solutions that eco-friendly companies, such as EcoSmart offer, afford homeowners a chance to make their own intricate contribution towards energy conservation. It’s something that we should all be championing for the sake of future generations to come.
The author is a writer who works tirelessly to raise the profile of the planets need for the conservation of rare resources, and mankind’s needs to protect the environment, especially for future generations. He has written many articles and blogs, plus other publications that have appeared on the World Wide Web.