• Trisha Hakim

Oceanic Mercury Pollution

Mercury is a very harmful heavy metal that cycles through the atmosphere, water, and soil in different forms to different parts of the world. Mercury pollution is now identified as a global problem and is on the rise. Mercury is a serious threat not only to animals and plants but also to human life. Mercury pollution in the oceans has more than doubled over the past century and governments and organizations are planning ways to stop this.

Mercury pollution is present all around the globe. It contaminates fishes and other seafood that are essential sources of protein and nutrition for people worldwide. Mercury release occurs by both natural and man-made processes. Natural processes are mainly geogenic such as volcanic eruptions and land emissions through the soil, it is also released by either natural weathering of the rocks or by geothermal reactions. While natural phenomena account for a certain percentage of present-day emissions, human emissions alone have increased mercury concentration in the environment. The two largest primary man-made sources of mercury emissions globally are stationary fossil fuels and artisanal gold mining. After being emitted to the atmosphere, mercury is deposited on the Earth in the form of rain and snow. It can deposit directly on the ocean surface or enter coastal waters via rivers

The mercury in oceans gets accumulated in the fishes in the form of methylmercury, which is not only a threat to marine life but also presents a serious threat to human life. The effects of high mercury levels on animals’ health were revealed by the severe mercury poisoning in the Minamata Bay of Japan, in which many animals exhibited extremely strange behaviors and high mortality rates after absorbing mercury from the seawater. Mercury consumption by people of all ages can result in a loss of vision, can weaken muscles, leads to loss of hearing and impairment of speech. Infants and developing children face even more serious health risks, mercury exposure inhibits proper brain and nervous system development.

Cleaning up the existing mercury pollution is not an easy process. We can buy mercury-free products whenever it is possible. In addition to this, minimizing the usage of coal power and shifting to cleaner energy sources, reducing small-scale artisanal gold mining, proper treatment of industrial mercury waste and implementation of policies are some good approaches to decrease mercury emissions in the long term. Public awareness is important to achieve this goal. Proper disposal of mercury-containing items can make some difference in recovering the world's ecosystem from mercury pollution leaving minimum mercury pollution in the ocean for our future generations.