Mercury

Authored by: Sven Erik Jørgensen

Encyclopedia of Environmental Management

Print publication date:  December  2012
Online publication date:  December  2012

Print ISBN: 9781439829271
eBook ISBN: 9781351235860
Adobe ISBN:

10.1081/E-EEM-120048399

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Abstract

Mercury caused one of the most significant environmental catastrophes in history, Minamata disease. In the 1950s, when the disease was discovered, it was not possible to explain but today, we know that it was a combination of mercury discharge from a chemical factory, accumulation in the sediment, formation of organic mercury compounds, and biomagnifications. Due to this discovery, several applications—particularly open applications—have been phased out during the last 20–40 years. By far the most significant mercury pollution today comes from coal-fired power plants, although natural processes, mainly of volcanic origin, also distribute as much as 1500 tons of mercury globally per year. Mercury can cause damage to the central nervous system and has both teratogenic and genetic effects. In environmental management, it is necessary to consider all the relevant processes of mercury in the environment.

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