OCEAN CHEMISTRY

Mercury levels in surface ocean tripled

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Science  15 Aug 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6198, pp. 783
DOI: 10.1126/science.345.6198.783-h

Human activities such as coal burning have tripled mercury in the surface ocean, posing a threat to human health, a study finds. Mercury emitted to the atmosphere rains out to the oceans, where it is converted to the neurotoxin methylmercury that bioaccumulates in fish. Lamborg et al. collected 8 years of water samples from four oceans and used databases of human-generated CO2 from coal burning to scale up to worldwide pollution. The ocean contains 60,000 to 80,000 tons of pollution mercury, they found, two-thirds in water shallower than 1000 meters. In the top 100 meters, mercury has tripled compared to preindustrial times.

Nature, 10.1038/nature13563(2014).

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