Mercury Levels Decline – Air and Fish Appears Safer

These days, uplifting news concerning the environment is rare — especially with the looming threat of climate change and its side effects — but finally, there’s something good to share.

A recent study published in Environmental Science and Technology revealed a notable decrease in the mercury levels of Atlantic bluefin tuna. In total, the study examined more than 1,000 specimens and found a 19% drop in mercury from 2004 to 2012. According to the study, this parallels the 20% drop in mercury in the North Atlantic air from 2001 to 2009.

Researchers attribute the reduction to the surge in clean energy efforts, which must continue to maintain existing progress and keep moving forward in the future. If clean energy initiatives are lessened or reduced, mercury levels could rise back to their previous level or even higher.

No Change in Recommended Canned Tuna Consumption

According to a 2007 analysis by an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) researcher, 28% of Americans’ mercury exposure comes from canned tuna. Consequently, humans are advised to limit their weekly intake. Consumer Reports recommends someone who weighs 150 pounds shouldn’t consume more than one can of albacore tuna — or slightly less than three cans of light tuna — per week.

While levels of mercury in Atlantic Bluefin tuna are on the decline, it’s still not safe to increase one’s weekly tuna intake. Despite being derived from the tuna family, the canned variety largely comes from other tuna species, according to Scientific American.

All Mercury Levels in Fish Not Declining

It’s great to hear mercury levels in some fish are declining, but this isn’t the case across the board. Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey conducted a study in 2014 with mixed results. The researchers studied methylmercury — a lethal form of mercury — concentrations in fish in four lakes in Minnesota’s Voyageurs National Park and determined they — along with mercury concentrations in shallow waters — were not consistent with the decline in the wet atmospheric deposition of mercury found at local monitoring stations for more than 10 years.

In total, two of the four lakes studied showed consistent decreases of mercury in water and methylmercury in small yellow perch, the third lake showed increases in both, and a forth was inconclusive. While declining mercury levels in some parts of the country and the world is fantastic news, this demonstrates the importance of monitoring specific local factors.

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