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Research overturns assumption about mercury in the Arctic


Burbot fish Mercury concentrations have declined in burbot fish from some Russian rivers.

May 15, 2014 – For years, scientists have assumed that if mercury is high and increasing in fish in the North American and European Arctic, the same is true of fish elsewhere in the Arctic. But a team of scientists from the U.S., Russia, and Canada has discovered that assumption is wrong in much of the continental Arctic. They found lower mercury concentrations in fish from select rivers in Russia near areas where the economy has declined since the fall of the former Soviet Union in 1991. Assistant Professor Leandro Castello is first author on a paper about the finding published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

In Russia, the economic decline near the watersheds of the Lena and Mezen rivers lowered polluting activity there, making their burbot fish now safe to eat. Mercury concentrations in fish from the two rivers were found to have been on a decline by 2.3 percent a year, whereas in North America concentrations have been increasing by 5 percent a year.

Read the full press release.

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