Aerial view of a tailings pond north of Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada. One of the chief human health concerns associated with oil sands development is the leakage of contaminated wastewater into drinking water supplies. (Source: NIEHS; Credit: Jiri Rezac.
According to an article entitled, "Deadly form of mercury found in Arctic waters: researchers" which you can read by clicking on the following link:
"A University of Alberta-led research team says its findings show a relatively harmless, inorganic form of the element mercury changes into a potent neurotoxin when it's in sea water."
"After two years of testing water samples across the Arctic Ocean, the researchers found that inorganic mercury, released from human activities like industry and coal-burning power plants, undergoes a process in the water called methylation and becomes deadly monomethylmercury."
"Monomethylmercury is a neurotoxin that accumulates in marine organisms, with serious implications for human health."
The greatest exposure for humans to monomethylmercury comes through eating seafood.
This certainly is alarming news for those of us who live in Canada and those who live in and near the Arctic!
Mercury has some very toxic effects on all life. I did some research on-line to find out how Mercury enters the arctic and I found the following statements:
Gaseous Hg(0) can flux into or out of waterbodies, such as lakes and oceans, depending on where concentrations of Hg(0) are higher. Inorganic Hg(II) and MMHg may also enter Arctic marine ecosystems in precipitation, river inflow, and glacial melt, as well as via ocean currents."
At the following link : http://oilsandstruth.org/mercury-eggs-downstream-tar-sands-grows-50-cent-study
I found another article entitled, "Mercury in eggs downstream from tar sands grows 50 per cent: study
" In this article it is stated: A study by Environment Canada indicates levels of toxic mercury in the eggs of water birds downstream from the oil-sands industry seem to have grown by nearly 50 per cent over the last three decades." If this mercury is finding its way into the tissues of birds we also must believe that this toxic compound is now in the tissue of humans who live in this Province! “Contamination from oil-sands development is one possibility,” the report says. The mercury contamination is still too low to threaten the health of the birds, he said, but the current levels are “a significant increase. Studies published earlier this year by University of Alberta biologists also found toxic heavy metals and some hydrocarbons at levels already harmful to fish. Those studies claim to establish a firm link between contamination and industrial development."
"Mercury is a trace component of all fossil fuels, including natural gas, gas condensates, crude oil, coal, tar sands, and other bitumens. The use of fossil hydrocarbons as fuels provides the main opportunity for releasing emissions of the mercury they contain into the atmospheric environment, but other avenues also exist in production, transportation, and processing systems. These other avenues may provide mercury directly to air, water, or solid waste streams." (source:http://www.epa.gov/nrmrl/pubs/600r01066/600r01066.htm )
"The mercury associated with petroleum and natural gas production and processing enters the environment primarily via solid waste streams (i.e., drilling and refinery waste) and combustion of fuels. In total, the amount may exceed 10,000 kilograms yearly, but the current estimates are uncertain because of a lack of statistical data. The amount of mercury in solid wastes versus atmospheric emissions from combustion is estimated to be roughly equal. Solid waste streams likely contain a much higher fraction of mercuric sulfides or other insoluble compounds than water soluble species and thus the bioavailability of mercury from this category is more limited than that which is derived from combustion." (same source as above).
I think it is time the Governments which operate in Provinces and states where oil and Gas production is occurring do some serious investigation of the amount of mercury which is entering the environment in North America due to the actions of the Oil and Gas industry on this continent!
I say that the Government of the Province of Alberta needs to spend some money and find out why the level of mercury found in the Environment has increased to this degree in the last 30 years! How do scientists really know at what level of contamination mercury is really toxic to birds and other life in this planet?