Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Mercury: Exposure Through the Food Chain

Large amounts of mercury become airborne when coal, oil, wood, or natural gas are burned as fuel or when mercury-containing garbage, including improperly discarded fluorescent lamps, is incinerated. This mercury can fall to the ground with rain and snow, landing on soil or in bodies of water, causing contamination. Lakes and rivers are also contaminated when there is a direct discharge of mercury-laden industrial and municipal waste into these waterbodies.

Elemental mercury and mercury salts, although fairly inert when deposited on the bottom of waterways, are converted into organic mercury, typically methylmercury, by microorganisms. Methylmercury then enters the food chain, where it is biomagnified up to 100,000 times in predacious fish. Eagles, turtles, mink, otters and other fish-eating creatures may have mercury introduced into their diets, which can cause early death, weight loss, and problems with their ability to reproduce.

Once mercury accumulates in the tissue of fish and other organisms, it may ultimately reach the dinner table, as most common human exposure to methylmercury is through consumption of contaminated fish or animals that eat fish. This mercury vapor, which can be introduced to human systems through consumption or absorbed through the skin or inhaled, can cause neurological damage to adults, children and fetuses. Read more about potential mercury risks.

Brad Buscher
Chairman and CEO
VaporLok Products LLC

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