Study finds mercury levels dropping in Atlantic Ocean

Dec 11, 2012

Mercury levels among fish caught in the Atlantic Ocean are dropping, but it's not the same case for fish from the Pacific Ocean.

That's among the findings in a new report worked on by a Syracuse University professor.

The report, Sources to Seafood: Mercury Pollution in the Marine Environment [PDF], was presented last week to lawmakers and government officials in Washington by, among others, Syracuse University professor Charles Driscoll.

Thanks to tighter controls on mercury pollution in North America and Europe, mercury levels among fish that are eaten from the Atlantic Ocean have dropped over the past few decades, says Driscoll.

But with industrial operations increasing in Asia and with it a higher use of coal-fired power plants, mercury levels are not budging in the Pacific. And the problem is, the Pacific Ocean is where a majority of fish Americans eat are pulled out of.

"Sixty-five percent of the emissions of mercury to the atmosphere occur in Asia. And the pacific is increasing, so it’s an issue," Driscoll says. "We see sort of this changing global scene in terms of releases of mercury."

The report on mercury levels was presented to staff at the Environmental Protection Agency, State Department and a Senate environmental committee - all members of a U.S. delegation that will take part in United Nations treaty talks on new mercury standards slated for next month.

Despite an increase in mercury levels among Pacific-caught fish, Driscoll maintains that consuming fish in moderation is part of a healthy diet.