A “time bomb” is hidden beneath the frozen Arctic soil


A big danger is hidden beneath the frozen layers of land in the Arctic.

Scientists have discovered that under the ice layer there are massive mercury reserves. A heavy metal that can pass on fish and animals, and from there to people which causes serious health problems.

A study published at Geophysical Research Letters concluded that the amount of mercury found beneath the frozen Arctic can be 10 times greater than the entire mercury that humankind has released into the atmosphere as a result of combustion of coal or other types of pollution in the last 30 years.

A "time bomb" is hidden beneath the frozen Arctic soil

With global warming, this layer of ice will be reduced. Mercury will be released in nature, polluting it but also will enter and destroy the food chain. Until recently, many scholars believed that the frozen layer did not contain mercury. But, it turned out to be the biggest mercury reserve on the planet.

However, it remains unclear when this mercury can be released and whether it will be in such quantities that will hurt humans.


Also read: What would happen if all ice on earth melted

Mercury is in nature where it is released as a result of forest combustion, volcanic eruption, and rock erosion.

But 2/3 of the mercury is released by humans, mainly through burning coal or medical waste. Once it is raised in the atmosphere, the mercury is returned down, dispersing in water or on the ground. From there, it is taken from fish or animals and enters the food chain.

A "time bomb" is hidden beneath the frozen Arctic soil

Mercury is introduced into the category of neurotoxins. It can hurt the development of the brain of young children by touching cognitive skills, memory, speech or sight. Even in adults, mercury may impair hearing, speech or muscle mobility, as well as affect the reproductive and immune system.

Thanks to complex atmospheric and oceanic processes, mercury is concentrated in larger quantities on the northern heights. That is why birds, whales, fish or polar bears living in these areas have a high mercury level. The same processes that lead Mercury today to the north of the planet have been doing this for millennia, creating a genuine deposit there.

What will happen?

A "time bomb" is hidden beneath the frozen Arctic soil

It is unlikely that all the amount remains stuck where it is now. When the earth melts, plants and trees grow up with them. Microorganisms that decompose plants also release methylmercury, a form even more toxic than mercury. Part of it will enter the ecosystem through water and air, then move on to animals.


How Much Will It End in Our Meals?

Determining exactly how endangered we are is a real challenge. First of all, the spread depends on the intensity with which humans emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This determines how many percent of the ice layer melts.

Initially, the release of mercury would increase the risk for people in the Arctic and the wildlife there. But what happens in the Arctic does not remain in the Arctic. Mercury will spread throughout the planet.

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