15 Feb '15, 12am

Rising mercury levels in tuna may make the fish off-limits in a few years.

Rising mercury levels in tuna may make the fish off-limits in a few years.

Back in the early 1970s, the Smithsonian Institution loaned a bunch of preserved fish to a team of chemists at the University of California, Irvine. The animals had already been dead for 80 or so years, but that’s why George Miller and his colleagues needed them—to settle a debate about mercury. Some scientists worried that pollution from coal-fired power plants and gold mining was concentrating mercury in the oceans. Others argued that humans couldn’t possibly alter the chemistry of the unfathomably vast seas. Miller wanted to compare mercury levels in the Smithsonian’s tuna, caught between 1878 and 1909, to those of modern fish. Miller reported good news: Although both the fin de siècle and 1970s fish were high in mercury, the levels had remained steady. The mercury in fish was mostly naturally occurring, according to Miller’s 1972 article in Science , and human activity...

Full article: http://www.onearth.org/earthwire/tuna-mercury-levels-rising

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