What is It?
-Mercury is a naturally occurring metal which has several forms in the environment.
-Mercury may combine with other elements, such as chlorine, sulfur and oxygen to form Mercury salts.
-The most common Mercury salt: methyl-mercury, is produced mainly as a by-product of microscopic organisms in the water.
-More Mercury in an environment leads to the increased presence of methyl-mercury resulting from these micro-organisms.
-Methyl-mercury builds up in the tissues of fish.
-Large, predatory fish tend to have the highest levels of mercury in their tissues.
Why is it in the environment?
-Mercury enters the water through disposal of industrial wastes.
-Combustion of fossil fuels, landfills, as well as metal refineries release Mercury.
How does it affect water quality?
-Contaminates clean drinking water, causing it to be poisonous.
How does it affect adults?
-The nervous system is susceptible to all forms of mercury.
-Although, Methyl-mercury is the most harmful form of Mercury.
-Exposure to high levels of Mercury may damage the brain and kidneys.
-Symptoms include: irritability, shyness, tremors, changes in vision or hearing, and memory problems.
-Short-term exposure to Mercury is not as severe as the Mercury poisoning takes many years to develop symptoms.
How does it affect children?
-Young children are more sensitive to mercury than adults.
-Mercury may pass to a nursing infant through a mother’s breast milk.
-Other harmful effects are: brain damage, mental retardation, blindness, seizures, and impaired speech.
-Long term Mercury poisoning may develop problems with nervous systems, digestive systems and kidney damage similar to adults.
What are the EPA regulations?
-The EPA has set a limit of 2 parts of mercury per billion parts of drinking water (2 ppb).
-The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has set a maximum permissible level of 1 part of methyl-mercury in a million parts of seafood (1 ppm).
-MCL: 2 ppb
-MCL: 0.002 mg/L