Thursday, June 23, 2016

Alice Li June 21, 2016 Blog

Alice Li
Environmental Leaders Internship
June 21, 2016

The element Mercury is discussed in depth today. Mercury is an element with an atomic number of 80 and atomic weight of 200.592. It is also known as "Quicksilver" due to its silver, white color and liquid form at room temperature. Little is known about mercury in the past which resulted in the wide use of them in everyday lives. For example, during the Felt Industry in America, America's top hat making company in Danbury, CT believed that Mercury helped speed up the process of making hats. The people who were exposed to Mercury became "crazy" and "full of madness." In 1941, the American Health Association finally realized the potential health hazards of mercury and decided to take action. Mercury was also well-known to the ancient Chinese and Hindus and has been found in 3500- year-old Egyptian tombs. It was used in potteries and gold extractions as well. Mercury is popular today too. It can be used to make thermometers, barometers, and other scientific instruments. Mercury conducts electricity and is used to make silent, position dependent switches. Mercury vapor is used in streetlights, fluorescent lamps, and advertising signs. Mercury is widely used but it poses serious harm to not only the environment but animal and human lives. Mercury is poisonous and can enter the body through the respiratory tract, the digestive tract or directly through the skin. It accumulates in the body, through bioaccumulation, eventually causing severe illness or death.

On a positive note, researchers are conducting more experiments on mercury and their potential hazards. For example, there was a recent research on mercury contamination in the New Haven Harbor. Scientists were curious to see whether there was a trend in Mercury contamination and elevation of metals. They also wanted to identify the nature of the contamination and compare historic and current conditions of mercury accumulation. They found that overall, there was a subsurface peak, which means that there was a decrease of input in recent years. However, they collected some data with surface peaks which means that there was an increase of input in recent years. Scientists concluded that reducing the amount of point source, including factories, waste facilities, and industries, definitely helps reduce the amount of mercury in water sources. However, nonpoint riverine sources may also be a reason for the accumulation of mercury and metal over time. Therefore, the reduction of point sources is not the only solution.

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