The Grand Canyon, one of America’s most famous natural attractions, is now being officially polluted by mercury. Mercury and selenium were found in high concentration within the Canyon, point out the area is in grave danger. These conclusions were drawn from and U.S. Geological Survey which was published in Environmental Toxicity and Chemistry.
Dr. David Walters, an USGS ecologist and the lead author of this study, has concluded that the management of exposure risks in the area are going to be very difficult to deal with. Mostly because mercury and selenium sources are well spread across the Canyon and far beyond it. A rather unpleasant piece of information which the doctor treats as “a challenge”.
Most of the data was collected from a number of sites located along the Colorado River, which spreads across the Canyon and proved to be an excellent research source. The conclusion was disturbing: invertebrates, minnows and all the fish had mercury and selenium concentrations that were way beyond toxicity thresholds for this kind of environment.
What is more disturbing is that the mercury level found in fish would make them dangerous for people to eat as well. Mercury is a very dangerous neurotoxin that can afflict the central nervous system for both humans and wildlife alike. Selenium, on the other hand, is a lot uglier: it can lead to tooth or hair loss and it can even cause tumors within humans’ livers.
A rather interesting development is how selenium actually protects some of the fish in the Canyon from mercury intoxication. Mercury levels in rainbow trout, for example, appear to be normal, so fishers who are still interested can fish in this area safely, but we recommend that you fish it for the love of the experience. Eating them would still not be a good idea.
The selenium pollution seems to be a little less worrying than the mercury one, especially because most of it seems to be a “natural result”. Selenium pollution normally comes from agriculture and mining, but a lot of the pollution is actually occurring because of high selenium levels which belong to the land.
With mercury, it’s a different story. It is polluting the area mostly due to coal-burning electrical plants which can be found even miles away from the actual Canyon. Not to mention other human activities that also cause the issue.
While the area seems to be in great danger, the measures that need to be taken into consideration would drastically reduce humans’ day to day activities. Coal mines would need to be shut down, people would need to stop visiting the Canyon for a while and transport would need to be shut down as well.
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