Experts warn that global warming could raise mercury levels in fish

Scientists have warned that rising ocean temperatures could boost mercury levels in fish by up to seven times higher than current rates.

Experiments in Sweden have found that extra rainfall causes extra organic materials to flow into seas, altering the food change and adding layers of complex organisms.

The study, which has been published in Science Advances, makes no excuses in mentioning that mercury is one of the world’s most toxic materials and is one of the top ten threats to public health.

According to the World Health Organisation, the substance has been linked to damage within the nervous system within humans, alongside paralysis, and mental impairment in children.

Up to 17 per 1,000 children in Brazil, Canada, China, Columbia, and Greenland have been shown to suffer from mental impairment due to the consumption of mercury-contaminated sea food.

Lead researcher, Dr Erk Bjorn, from Umea University in Sweden said that, “Our study confirms this hypothesis and shows that an increase of 15 – 20 per cent of the content of organic matter in our waters can cause a shift from an autotrophic based to a heterotrophic-based food web and lead to the content of methylmercury increasing two to sevenfold in zooplankton.”

The predicted higher levels of organic matter were calculated in accordance with climate change scenarios for large regions of the northern hemisphere, including the Baltic Sea.

Since the industrial revolution levels of mercury in the world’s ecosystems have risen by between 200 and 500 per cent, largely driven up by the use of fossil fuels such as coal.

There have however been efforts to limit the amount of mercury entering the environment, with the Minamata Convention having been enacted in 2013 and signed by 136 countries.

The convention included the prohibition of a myriad of products containing the chemical, including the production and trade by 2020.

These products included a range of everyday items including batteries, fluorescent lamps, soaps, thermometers, and blood pressure devices.

Currently the biggest source of release comes from coal-fired power stations and usage of the chemical to separate gold from rock.

Andy has worked as a freelance journalist for a number of years and has been published in some of the UK’s top newspapers. He is now the editor Commercial Waste Magazine and contributes to a large selection of headlines and blog articles on the site.

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