Friday, January 25, 2013

Scary but True...
I hate to be a "Negative Nelly," but I think about this issue a lot and I need to share my worry with you.
There’s something in our water: Mercury.  And, it’s not just in the water we drink, it’s in the food we eat and the air we breathe. But don’t freak out just yet.  There are people out there working to protect us from this dangerous compound.

When I think about mercury, one image pops into my head:
 Although this is a legit mercury example, elemental mercury is not the image of concern.  The “bad” mercury is technically called Methyl-mercury.  Coal-burning power plants and mining activities are the biggest contributors of methyl mercury.  A little scary because we have several of those in Utah (about 0.1 tons of Hg emitted per year). So what makes methyl-mercury so bad?

Methyl-mercury bioaccumlates…which means the concentration increases the further up the food chain you go.  So if a coal power plant emits mercury, it goes into the air then into the water through rain. It changes into methyl-mercury and gets taken up by algae. Algae are ingested by a bug, the bug is eaten by a fish, then we eat the fish. From algae to us, the concentration of methyl-mercury increases.

Wanna sweat while sitting down?? Here we go: methyl mercury is dangerous, especially to us women. 
Mercury poisoning is known to cause:
  • severe birth defects
  • mental disorders
  • nervous system damage 
The most sensitive people to mercury poisoning include infants, young children, and pregnant women.

To help combat the mercury issue in Utah, we’ve got the Mercury Workgroup: a group of individuals that work together to monitor mercury and post advisories.  Fish and waterfowl are collected from waters of concern, tissue is taken from each specimen, and then sent to an EPA lab for mercury analysis. This year, fish from several waterbodies including Rockport, Starvation, and Smith & Morehouse Reservoirs have been collected.  Ducks have been collected from the Great Salt Lake wetlands. Results from this year’s samples should be available around May 2013.

Once results are available, the Mercury Work Group gets together and discusses the findings. Data is reviewed, advisories are listed for water bodies, and program details are tweaked. The public is invited to attend Mercury meetings (held quarterly). Information about these meetings can be found at Division of Environmental Quality’s website (

So, what’s the bottom line when it comes to protecting you and your family against the harmful effects of mercury? The answer is simple: educate yourself.

  • Know what you’re eating and where it comes from. Local fish consumption guides are available at
  • Limit your fish meals. It’s ok to have fish every once and a while, but limit those fish that are mid-range in mercury levels to the recommended rate:
  • Avoid fish known to have high mercury levels such as King Mackerel and Swordfish.
  • Be active in prevention.  Limit your energy consumption to reduce the amount of airborne mercury from coal-burning power plants.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.