Stray showers of mercury are poisoning Earth’s food supply

Stray showers of mercury getting into food chain
Poisonous metal released as a vapour by burning fuel, then falls back to Earth and gets absorbed by the aquatic ecosystem
Press Association in Washington
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 18 December 2011 23.41 GMT

Study shows over time mercury is oxidised and gets deposited back on Earth, through rain or snow. Bacteria then transform the oxidised mercury into methyl mercury, which easily enters the food chain. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

Earth is being showered with mercury that can land anywhere and enter the food chain, a study has shown. The poisonous metal is released as a vapour by burning fuel then falls back to Earth and is easily absorbed by the aquatic ecosystem. Thousands of tonnes of mercury vapour are pumped into the air each year. Scientists discovered that in time mercury is oxidised it can then be deposited back on Earth, either in rain or snow. Bacteria transform the oxidised mercury into methyl mercury, which easily enters the food chain. US scientist Dr Seth Lyman, who led the research while at the University of Washington Bothell, said: “Much of the emitted mercury is deposited far from its original sources.

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