It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.
Please white-list or disable AboveTopSecret.com in your ad-blocking tool.
Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.
The concentration of mercury in humans and animals that live in polar regions is on the increase. Polar bears and humans that eat marine mammals are the most affected. But why is there more mercury in the Arctic than elsewhere?
Scientists have been puzzling over this question since the beginning of the 1990s. Their first breakthrough came when it was discovered that under certain meteorological conditions, mercury from the air is deposited on the snow and ice in polar areas. The phenomenon occurs when the sun rises over the horizon in the spring, after a long polar night.
But it appears that a reaction between sea salt, sunlight and atmospheric mercury transforms the less hazardous gaseous mercury in the air into more reactive mercury. When this more reactive type of mercury is deposited on the ground, it can be converted into toxic methylmercury -- which then can poison the entire food chain.
Accumulates in the food chain - When mercury enters the food chain, it is taken up by microorganisms, and then by ever larger organisms. Marine mammals, polar bears and humans are the top of the food chain in the Arctic, and thus are subject to the most contamination, because the farther up the food chain you go, the higher the concentration of mercury becomes.
Mercury is stored in the body and there is much evidence that the contaminant damages the nervous system. Mercury can also have a serious effect animal health, but also threatens people who largely live off marine mammals. Some studies of children in the Faeroe Islands have shown learning disabilities which are suspected to be linked to high mercury concentrations in the food that they eat.