Via, this:

Stray showers of mercury getting into food chain

Poisonous metal released as a vapour by burning fuel, then falls back to Earth and gets absorbed by the aquatic ecosystem

Given that this has been happening for a century or two and we\’re not all murdered in our beds by the pollution, should we conclude therefore that mercury isn\’t quite as poisonous as some would have us believe?

Lots of it does kill of course but a little bit spread through the environment not so much?

8 thoughts on “Hmmmmmmm”

  1. A century or two?

    Mercury from coal burning in Asia, for example, could circle the globe several times before being oxidised and carried back to the Earth’s surface.

    I suspect we’ve been burning coal in Asia for a couple of millennia, at least. Mind you, what’s the mercury content of wood smoke (note the specific findings related to methyl mercury, even without bacterial intervention)? So we can take that back to before the beginning of civilisation and before.

    Never mind natural forest fires, volcanoes and other non-human intervention events.

  2. Curious. They managed to get through the entire article without once mentioning the mercury pumped into the air by crematoria incinerating tooth fillings. Back in the ’90s that was the big scare story accounting for (insert made-up figure here) percentage of atmospheric mercury. Or the outgassing from mercury barometers, (which is why new manufacture was banned.)

    Don’t know about anyone else, but I was educated back in the time when lesson three in the science course involved in dolling out dishes of shiny liquid metal to eleven year olds so they could bugger about with glass tubing & metre scales. Heaven knows how much off the stuff went walkabout but little balls of it were a continuous feature of school life for months afterwards. Bearing in mind the lack of hand washing amongst grubby schoolboys, a considerable amount of that must have been ingested. Total number of mercury poisoning incidents? Zero.

    Cadaverous fillings. Chinese coal. Wonder where the next mercury scare story will originate?

  3. Of course what we need to do is discover vast amounts of something we can burn instead of coal, but which releases far less mercury. Start looking around Blackpool maybe….?

  4. Metallic mercury is relatively safe since it’s poorly absorbed through the skin and stomach, and is not very soluble in water, though it is pretty bad if you breathe in the vapour.

    The salts, particularly methylmercury, are among the most toxic substances around and are bioaccumulative (see Minamata disease for example).

    I don’t think there can be any question about mercury’s toxicity – if it finds its way into a dangerous form, i.e., mercury vapour or water-soluble salt, it’s bad news. But since half of the mercury released into the air comes from volcanoes anyway, the exposure most of us face on a daily basis (probably minute concentrations of vapour for the most part) is pretty low.

  5. “back in the time when lesson three in the science course involved in dolling out dishes of shiny liquid metal” – safe enough for the kids, however, it did indeed turn out that teachers and lab technicians could be exposed to too much mercury vapour – years worth of Hg evaporating out of cracks in the floor etc.

    They use flowers of sulphur to mop it up.

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