Alarming Levels of Mercury are Found in Old Growth Amazon Forest

Via Flickr

Simone Garza | January 28, 2022

Currently, there are extreme levels of mercury that have been found in Madre de Rio regions of Peru. The canopy located in this region is known to uphold abundant biodiversity. The process of mercury being released into the air, is by burning coal that contains a threatening neurotoxin for both humans and animals. The mercury has been released in the air from miners looking for gold near riverbanks.

Once it is released into the air, the particles can lay on leaves such as dust and washed into the forest floor by rain. The absorbed mercury in the leaves is then transferred up to the song bird’s food cycle, revealing levels that are two to 12 times higher in proportionate sectors that are distant from mining activity. Mercury consumption for birds can impact their ability to sing, navigate, and even lay fewer eggs. This research has been published in the journal called Nature Communications. 

Remaining mercury particles can be absorbed in the leaves tissue. Mercury can also be threatening for aquatic systems. Mercury can transform into methylmercury, a very hazardous form of poison. This results from bigger fish eating on smaller ones, as the mercury builds up to the food web.

This is the cause of doctors strongly recommending pregnant women to prevent consuming predaceous fish like shark, known as swordfish and king mackerel. In the Madre de Rios Region, illegal acts of gold mining have increased. Illegal miners tend to swath areas of the jungle, straining massive amounts of topsoil to find any size of gold. Without adequate help, it could take 500 years to repair. In 2016, the government had declared a health emergency following the report of 40 percent of people in 97 villages that had alarming levels of mercury in their systems.

This specific type of gold mining done in Peru is called small-scale gold mining. This happens in approximately 70 other countries, also resulting in close to 20 percent of global gold production. 

Iowa Public Radio: Global Mercury Treaty

Photo by NASA Goddard Photo and Video; Flickr

Representatives from 140 countries gather in Minamata, Japan, this week to sign a global agreement to reduce mercury in the environment.

This comes nearly 80 years after a chemical plant in Minamata began releasing methyl mercury into the ocean.

The resulting mercury poisoning affected some 60,000 people and was officially recognized as Minamata disease in 1956.

The chemical poisoning is described as one of the world’s worse environmental disasters.

Head over to IPR for the full story and audio.

Some of Iowa’s hazardous waste is being dumped in Illinois to avoid Iowa’s regulations

The I-74 Bridge connecting Iowa and Illinois. Photo by sailorwind, Flickr.

A report from WQAD indicates that some organizations and people in Iowa are taking their hazardous materials to Iowa in order to avoid Iowa’s stricter regulations.

The demanufacturers in Iowa are carefully monitored, and apply fees for the removal of toxic waste such as PCB’s, mercury and Freon. The Illinois demanufacturers are given more freedom.

WQAD sent a reporter to one Illinois demanufacturer with hazardous waste material, and the company disposed of the waste without first removing the toxic chemicals.

See the video of WQAD’s trip to the Illinois demanufacturer here.

With National Science Foundation grant, UI researcher will study metals in soil

How do metals like arsenic or mercury behave in our soil?

Michelle Scherer, a UI professor of civil and environmental engineering, just netted a three-year $579,729  grant from the National Science Foundation that will help us find out.

Michelle Scherer

Vicki Grassian, a UI professor of chemistry, will co-investigate the project.

Metals like arsenic and mercury are known to “stick” to the mineral surfaces in soils, but work by Scherer and her graduate students reveals something new –  the metals may also react with the interiors of mineral particles in the soil.

The grant will fund research on how these new processes will affect movement of these metals in the environment. Continue reading