Mercury Levels Have Tripled in Ocean Waters

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Our Thursday green news brings you the latest on green architecture, climate change, energy and communities:ocean pollution, mercury and oceans

  • Mercury levels have tripled in ocean waters: According to a new study, the toxic metal mercury threatens marine life as it accumulates in shallow waters faster than in deep sea. The study has found that since the industrial revolution the amount of mercury near the surface of many of the world’s oceans has tripled, as mercury enters both the atmosphere and seas from a variety of human activities including mines, coal-fired power plants and sewage. Mercury is toxic to humans and tends to accumulate in the body over time as we get exposed to its sources. The research team including scientists  from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution recently published a letter in the journal Nature, excluding their warning on the dangers to human health but indicating further research could yield more advice on the potential impacts. As Simon Boxall, lecturer on ocean and Earth science at the University of Southampton, explained: “It was “hard to say” from the research how much damage had already been done to marine life, including edible fish species, and how quickly any such damage would become apparent. I would not stop eating ocean fish as a result of this. But it is a good indicator of how much impact we are having on the marine environment. It is an alarm call for the future.”
  • Carbon dioxide into a useful fuel source:  Scientists around the globe have been working on the possibilities of converting CO2 into something useful. Now they believe they might have found a way to take carbon dioxide from greenhouse gas to a greener fuel-source in its own right. Researchers at the University of Illinois in Chicago had already created a method that allows conversion of carbon dioxide into a synthesis gas that can be used as a fuel, also known as  syngas. Their two-step process uses the inorganic metallic compound molybdenum disulfide and what’s known as an ionic liquid to reduce the carbon dioxide to syngas. As Salehi-Khojin, a primary investigator on the study, stated: “The end goal for all this work is making the reduction process a wide-scale reality. Our whole purpose is to move from laboratory experiments to real-world applications. This is a real breakthrough that can take a waste gas — carbon dioxide — and use inexpensive catalysts to produce another source of energy at large-scale, while making a healthier environment.” Another research team from MIT  has created a method to “trap” CO2 and turn it into useful organic compounds that might allow for production of carbon neutral energy sources. Also researchers from Singapore have managed to convert CO2  into methanol. Methanol can be used as a clean burning biofuel, among other uses.
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