Peruvian gold rush turns pristine rainforests into heavily polluted mercury sinks

| Eurek Alert| Peer-Reviewed Publication |

| Duke University | 28-Jan-2022 |


Scientists record the highest levels of atmospheric mercury pollution in the world in a pristine patch of the Peruvian Amazon


“We found that mature Amazonian forests near gold mining are capturing huge volumes of atmospheric mercury, more than any other ecosystem previously studied in the entire world,” said Gerson, who is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Berkeley.
CREDIT: MELISSA MARCHESE
IMAGE: ARTISINAL GOLD MINERS IN THE PERUVIAN AMAZON USE OPEN PIT FIRES TO EXTRACT GOLD, SENDING METHYLMERCURY INTO THE ATMOSPHERE. NEW DATA SHOWS HOW THAT MERCURY IS ABSORBED BY NEARBY ECOSYSTEMS.

DURHAM, N.C. – If you had to guess which part of the world has the highest levels of atmospheric mercury pollution, you probably wouldn’t pick a patch of pristine Amazonian rainforest.


Yet, that’s exactly where they are.


In a new study appearing Jan. 26 in the journal Nature Communications, an international team of researchers show that illegal gold mining in the Peruvian Amazon is causing exceptionally high levels of atmospheric mercury pollution in the nearby Los Amigos Biological Station.

 
It’s everywhere: in the rain, snow, our food, our waters, even in the human placenta! Mercury is poisoning life on Earth.

ARE YOU AWARE artisanal miners' gold ore processing produces 20% of the world's supply of gold used in our jewellery, iPad’s, iPhone, computers, and other electronics devices and is the world's largest anthropogenic source of deadly mercury pollution overtaking coal fired plants mercury emissions in 2017?


Artisanal miners' ore processing uses mercury, a deadly neurotoxin to extract liberated gold from crushed or milled ore by forming an amalgam which is vaporized to our atmosphere releasing 2,000 tonnes of mercury vapor to our atmosphere annually



Mercury pollution is documented in 2021 by Oxford University earth scientists to stay airborne up to one year then precipitates back to Earth in the form of rain and snow.




The morbid irony lies in the fact the same vaporized mercury is polluting the air we all breathe, contaminating our drinking water, polluting the Oceans we swim, poisoning the fish we consume especially tuna where mercury bioaccumulates the most causing health issues, and global biodiversity destruction.


But finally there's hope!

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