Friday, January 25, 2013

Last week's news about mercury

The element, that is, not the planet.

I made a passing reference to how climate change would increase circulation of mercury in If you thought this year's flu season was bad, wait until climate change gets through with it by linking to an Environmental Health News article republiahed in Scientific American.  It's time to link to it again and quote the relevant passage.

Mercury Emissions Threaten Aquatic Environments
New mercury emissions seem to be more of a threat than the mercury already out there from previous emissions, according to some scientists
By Brian Bienkowski and Environmental Health News
January 18, 2013
As United Nations delegates end their mercury treaty talks today, scientists warn that ongoing emissions are more of a threat to food webs than the mercury already in the environment.

At the same time, climate change is likely to alter food webs and patterns of mercury transport in places such as the Arctic, which will further complicate efforts to keep the contaminant out of people and their food.

University of Wisconsin researchers recently found that mercury added to a lake reached top predators faster than the mercury that already existed in their environment.

“It was amazing how fast the mercury got into the fish,” said James Hurley, project researcher and director of the university’s Water Resources Institute in Madison.
That's bad news.  However, the delegates to the U.N. conference were able to do something more useful than they've done with greenhouse gases, as Reuters republished in Scientific American reported.

U.N. clinches global deal on cutting mercury emissions
By Tom Miles and Emma Farge
January 19, 2013
GENEVA (Reuters) - More than 140 countries have agreed on the first global treaty to cut mercury pollution through a blacklist of household items and new controls on power plants and small-scale mines, the United Nations said on Saturday.

The legally-binding agreement aims to phase out many products that use the toxic liquid metal such as batteries, thermometers and some fluorescent lamps, through banning global import and exports by 2020.

The treaty will require countries with coal-fired power plants such as India and China to install filters and scrubbers on new plants and to commit to reducing emissions from existing operations to prevent mercury from coal reaching the atmosphere.
This is all good news.  Time to break out Professor Farnsworth.

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