EVISA Print | Glossary on | Contact EVISA | Sitemap | Home   
 Advanced search
The establishment of EVISA is funded by the EU through the Fifth Framework Programme (G7RT- CT- 2002- 05112).

Supporters of EVISA includes:

Huge Amounts of Toxic Mercury Found Hidden in the Arctic Permafrost


Mercury is a global pollutant that is released into the air from a variety of sources, from power plants to volcanoes, and is washed into bodies of water by rainfall. Hg deposits onto the soil surface from the atmosphere, where it bonds with organic matter. In regions, where the soil is at or below 0°C for at least two consecutive years (permafrost), mercury storage in the soil surface layer is enhanced. Even worse, over thousands of years, sedimentation buried mercury bound to organic material and froze it into the permafrost.

Map showing the permafrost areas in the arctic

Figure: Permafrost map: Darker shades of purple indicate higher percentages of permanently frozen ground. Map courtesy Philippe Rekacewicz, UNEP/GRID-Arendal; data from International Permafrost Association, 1998. Circumpolar Active-Layer Permafrost System (CAPS), version 1.0.

The new study:

Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey studied the stored mercury in core samples from the Alaskan permafrost. From the results they then calculated the average level of mercury throughout the world. Permafrost covers approximately 24 percent of the Northern Hemisphere, including large portions of Canada and Russia. The estimated mercury amount in permafrost soil is nearly twice as much present in all other soils, the ocean, and the atmosphere combined. The active surface layer alone represents the largest Hg reservoir on the planet.

The authors argue that the Hg stored in permafrost soils represents an environmental risk as permafrost continues to thaw in the future due to climate change. Some portion of that will spread through water or air into the ecosystem and eventually into animals. If that’s not alarming enough, toxic mercury could also get into the atmosphere and travel around the world, affecting not just the northern hemisphere, but the whole planet.

The original publication:

Paul F. Schuster, Kevin M. Schaefer, George R. Aiken, Ronald C. Antweiler, John F. Dewild, Joshua D. Gryziec, Alessio Gusmeroli, Gustaf Hugelius, Elchin Jafarov, David P. Krabbenhoft, Lin Liu, Nicole Herman-Mercer, Cuicui Mu, David A. Roth, Tim Schaefer, Robert G. Strieg, Kimberly P. Wickland, and Tingjun Zhang, Permafrost Stores a Globally Significant Amount of Mercury, Geophys. Res. Let., 45 (2018). doi: 10.1002/2017GL075571

Related publications:
  D. Obrist, Y. Agnan, M. Jiskra, C.L. Olson, D.P. Colegrove, J. Hueber, D. Helmig, Tundra uptake of atmospheric elemental mercury drives Arctic mercury pollution. Nature, 547/7662 (2017) 201–204. doi: 10.1038/nature22997

A.L. Soerensen, D.J. Jacob, T.T. Schartup, J.A. Fisher, I. Lehnherr, V.L. St. Louis, E.M. Sunderland, A mass budget for mercury and methylmercury in the Arctic Ocean. Global Biogeochem.  Cycles, 30 (2016) 560–575. doi: 10.1002/2015GB005280

O. Hararuk, D. Obrist, Y. Luo, Modelling the sensitivity of soil mercury storage to climate-induced changes in soil carbon pools. Biogeosciences, 10/4 (2013) 2393–2407. doi: 10.5194/bg-10-2393-2013

G.A. Stern, R.W. Macdonald, P.M. Outridge, S. Wilson, J. Chételat, A. Cole, H. Hintelmann, L.L. Loseto, A. Steffen, F. Wang, C. Zdanowicz, How does climate change influence arctic mercury? Sci. Total Environ., 414 (2012) 22–42. DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2011.10.039

S. Jiang, X. Liu, Q. Chen, Distribution of total mercury and methylmercury in lake sediments in Arctic Ny-Ålesund. Chemosphere, 83/8 (2011) 1108–1116. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2011.01.031

J. Rydberg, J. Klaminder, P. Rosén, R. Bindler, Climate driven release of carbon and mercury from permafrost mires increases mercury loading to sub-arctic lakes. Science of the Total Environment, 408/20 (2010) 4778–4783. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2010.06.056

 Related EVISA Resources

Link Database: Toxicity of Organo-mercury compounds
Link Database: Mercury exposure through the diet
Link Database: Environmental cycling of methylmercury
Link Database: Environmental cycling of inorganic mercury
Link Database: Environmental pollution of methylmercury
Link Database: Environmental pollution of inorganic mercury
Link Database: Toxicity of mercury

Related EVISA News

January 29, 2017: Toxic Mercury in Aquatic Life Could Spike due to Climate Change
January 25, 2012: New Report Shows High Levels of Mercury in Terrestrial Ecosystems
October 15, 2011: Mercury pollution in the Great Lakes region -- nearly forgotten, but not gone
June 28, 2010: New Study Examines Why Mercury is More Dangerous in Oceans
September 8, 2009: Inorganic Mercury Level in US Women increases
August 21, 2009: USGS Study Reveals Mercury Contamination in Fish Nationwide
June 17, 2009: 'Surprisingly High Levels' of Methylmercury Contamination found in Groundwater
May 3, 2009: Ocean mercury on the rise
February 11, 2009: Mercury in Fish is a Global Health Concern
March 11, 2007: Methylmercury contamination of fish warrants worldwide public warning
February 18, 2007: New research results suggest that mercury hotspots in the northeastern US are home made
October 9, 2006: Linking atmospheric mercury to methylmercury in fish
September 23, 2006: Report Finds Mercury Contamination Permeates Wildlife Systems
August 16, 2006: Mercury pollution threatens health worldwide, scientists say
June 16, 2006: Sulfur fuels the methylation of mercury
February 17, 2006: Study shows link between clear lakes and methylmercury contamination in fish
February 9, 2006: Study show high levels of mercury in women related to fish consumption
September 13, 2005: Regulating Mercury Emissions from Power Plants: Will It Protect Our Health?
April 3, 2005: Dissension on the best way to fight mercury pollution
March 20, 2005: New results on the distribution of mercury in the USA is fueling the discussion on the necessity of the reduction of its emission
January 12, 2005: Number of fish meals is a good predictor for the mercury found in hair of environmental journalists
November 23, 2004:  Is the methylmercury paradox real ?
April 27, 2004: FDA/EPA recommends pregnant women to restrict their fish consumption because of methylmercury content

last time modified: July 22, 2020


Imprint     Disclaimer

© 2003 - 2024 by European Virtual Institute for Speciation Analysis ( EVISA )