Majestic Grand Canyon: Contaminated By Mercury Poisoning

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Researchers have found something very disturbing in the Grand Canyon.  A new report from the U.S. Geological Survey scientists shows that there is a very worrisome amount of mercury in the Grand Canyon.  The worst problem?  They mercury has made its way into the food web of wildlife and water in the canyon.


Discovery News writes, “Researchers collected data from six sites along along the Colorado River, which winds through the Canyon. They found that the mercury and selenium concentrations in minnows, invertebrates and fish exceeded dietary toxicity thresholds set for fish and fish-eating wildlife. The data also revealed that the average mercury concentrations in many of the fish studied would make them unsafe for humans to eat as well.”

The scientists note that “the findings of the present study add to a growing body of evidence showing that remote ecosystems are vulnerable to long-range transport and subsequent bioaccumulation of contaminants.” 

However, managing such pollutants getting into the park’s ecosystem is not easy, because the source is usually far beyond the park’s boundaries. Mercury pollution comes from coal-burning electrical plants, steel production, incinerators and cement plants as well as other human-caused sources. As for how it gets into the Grand Canyon from these distant places, the scientists believe that much of it is being transported by algae from Lake Powell.

This study underscores the importance of widespread environmental responsibility, because our national parks don’t have impermeable boundaries. What we do outside of the parks affects the conditions within the parks. 


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