How Does Mercury Get into the Environment

How Does Mercury Get into the Environment? 3 Main Sources

Mercury is a dangerous element that poses serious risks to the environment and human health. Even a small quantity of mercury can have an impact on the ecosystem.

The first question that comes into many people’s minds when they hear about mercury pollution is, how does mercury get into the environment?

There are many sources of mercury, and people can be exposed to this element through breathing mercury vapors, eating fish with a high concentration of methylmercury, and skin contact.

Whether you are exposed to small or large amounts of mercury, you can have issues with the nervous system, kidneys, and immune system.

So, How Does Mercury Get into the Environment?

Mercury emission can lead to an increased number of atmospheric mercury. And when it enters the water-soil cycle, it can remain in the environment for many years. But how does this element get into the environment?

Here are 3 sources of mercury

1. Natural sources

Mercury enters the environment by natural sources such as geological deposits, volcanoes, and the geothermal springs. Once mercury enters the environment, it becomes airborne when the volcano erupts, soil decomposes, or the rock erodes.

2. Human activities

Human activities are the main cause of mercury in the environment. When you burn coal, oil, household trash, natural gas, mine ore deposits, you will be releasing mercury into the environment.

Also, some of the medical products contain high levels of mercury. When they are burned or disposed of the trash, they may release mercury.

Once mercury gets into the air, it falls with snow or rain. It then settles on the soil or water, causing contamination.

Besides, mercury can enter into the water bodies through an unmanaged discharge of municipal sewage or industrial waste. Because of this, it is good to keep items with a high concentration of mercury away from the sewer system, trash, and plumbing system.

Also read: How to reduce waste in environment

3. Evaporation

Mercury does not evaporate quickly. But it will disappear with time, especially at room temperatures.

When the mercury in the soil or industrial waste gets into the lake, river, or ocean, it is likely to evaporate after some time. After several months it will get back to the ground through the rain and storm.

This process can continue for many years, making the levels of mercury increase.

Also read: Benefits of reducing waste to the environment

FAQs about Mercury in the Environment

How does mercury affect animals?

Mercury causes risks to wildlife. When it gets into the lake, rives, or oceans, animals are likely to consume it, causing neurological or digestive reproductive system issues.

Besides, animals can inhale the corrosive mercury vapor, which can compromise respiratory functions.

Because of the mercury’s corrosive nature, it produces signs such as stomatitis, diarrhea, dehydration, vomiting, and pain when consumed. Also, death can occur, thus, interfering with the ecosystem food web.

Where is mercury found in everyday life?

You can find mercury in the soil, water bodies, and air. But it is not only found in nature. Most of the items you use in your everyday life contain mercury. For instance, a variety of thermometer brands use mercury. Also, some scientific instruments, such as barometers, contain mercury.

Besides, mercury is a good conductor of electricity. Thus, you can use it in silent position-dependent switches.

As you can see, most of the items you use every day contain mercury, which increases its levels in the environment. But if you minimize the use of these products, you will reduce mercury emission, thus, conserving the environment.

How does mercury affect the body?

Mercury in the environment can be a threat to your body. High levels of mercury can be fatal to your health. However, even a small dose can have a serious impact on your nervous system, immune, cardiovascular, and reproductive system.

When mercury and its compounds get into your body, it can cause impaired vision and hearing, insomnia, tremors, and emotional instabilities.

When a pregnant woman inhales or consumes products with mercury, she can develop a placenta barrier. Also, issues with fetus development can occur, which can cause mental delays in the kid’s early childhood.

Because of this, it would be best if you engage in activities that will keep mercury out of the environment.

What can you do to prevent mercury pollution?

Industrial sources such as power plants and cement kilns are the biggest contributors to mercury pollution. And trying to stop them from performing activities that cause contamination can be challenging.

But you can work against mercury pollution by joining groups that work for strong laws and regulations to conserve the environment.

Should you be worried about using Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFL)?

Mercury is bound inside the fluorescent light. Thus, the mercury element cannot escape when in use. But it is advisable to be careful during the bulb replacement and installation because it can easily break and release mercury.

Also, it is good to recycle the bulbs. You can return them to the seller or take them to the local garbage collection.

How does mercury get into the body?

Mercury can cause health issues. It enters the body through eating/drinking contaminated foods and drinks. Foods such as fish contain high levels of mercury due to water contamination.

Also, high fructose corn syrup has low mercury levels. That’s why it is advisable to check where the food you consume comes from. If you are a sensitive human being, it is good to limit processed foods.

Besides, you can breathe or absorb mercury through the skin.

When mercury gets into the environment, it becomes mobile and can cycle between the atmosphere and the earth’s surface. Once it reaches the soil or water bodies, microorganisms convert it into toxic methylmercury, which can be harmful when consumed by aquatic animals or human beings.

This harmful impact of mercury makes people remain with the question, how does mercury get into the environment?

As you are aware, mercury gets into the environment through natural means and human activities. But the good thing is that there are things you can do to minimize mercury emissions to the atmosphere.

For instance, you can consider using mercury-free items or avoid throwing mercury products into the trash or waterways.

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