Monkfish is one of the species with the highest levels of mercury. Photo: Flickr.com / Biodiversity Heritage Library CC BY

Mercury pollution still a big problem

Historical and current emissions of mercury continue to present a significant risk to the environment and human health, according to the European Environment Agency (EEA). The main source of new mercury emissions in Europe is coal burning, but about half of the mercury deposited in Europe’s environment originates from outside Europe.

Mercury presents the biggest risk in rivers, lakes and oceans where it takes a highly toxic form that is absorbed by animals, including fish. Nearly 46,000 out of approximately 111,000 surface water bodies in the EU do not meet mercury levels set to protect fish-eating birds and mammals. Humans become exposed to mercury mainly when they eat large predator fish, such as tuna or monkfish, that have been eating smaller fish with mercury in their bodies. Mercury presents a particular and significant risk to the neurological development of foetuses, newborn babies and children.

Source: EEA news, 19 September 2018. The report: https://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/mercury-in-europe-s-environment

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