Mercury pollution pollutes water and soil deposits, destroys ecosystems and poisoned local food networks. The UN Environmental Program Research (UNEP) shows that mercury pollution continues to increase in developing countries.
The United Nations has also adopted the Minamata Convention to control and reduce mercury pollution. This harmful heavy metal pollutes the environment and threatens health for decades even thousands of years.
Mercury Pollution Effects
Mercury can be in 3 forms, namely: metal, inorganic compounds, and organic compounds. Mercury and its derivatives are highly toxic, so its presence in the aquatic environment can be very harmful.
The effects of mercury pollution on ecology
The effects of mercury pollution on ecology are long-term, including damage to the community structure, genes, food networks, behavior, and the physiology of aquatic animals.
Mercury pollution effect on the environment
In the environment, mercury contained in the waste in the public water is transformed by micro-organism activities into a component of methyl mercury (organic compounds) by microorganisms.
Methyl Mercury has a high toxic power, it is difficult to decompose compared to its native substance and has a high connective power on the body tissues, especially on the water biota. Therefore, the concentration of mercury is usually found higher in the water biota compared to terrestrial animals.
Methyl and ethyl mercury poisoning
The implications of clinics contaminated with Mercury (HG). In epidemiologic studies found that methyl and ethyl-mercury poisoning are largely caused by the consumption of fish obtained from contaminated areas or food made from plant raw which is sprayed with pesticide with alkyl mercury fungicides.
Mad Hatter’s Disease
Hg poisoning often referred to as mercurialism is widely found in developing countries, such as the Mad Hatter’s Disease, which is an outbreak of Hg poisoning suffered by employees at Alice Wonderland.
The Minamata disaster is an outbreak of Hg poisoning at residents eating fish contaminated by the Hg in Minamata, Japan, and this incident is known as Minamata Disease.
Another disease caused by Hg poisoning is the Pink Disease that occurs in Guatemala and Russia which is the outbreak.
Impact of Mercury Poisoning on Pregnant Women
One of the foods that contain many mercury content is fish. Therefore, restriction of fish consumption and knowing the characteristics of fish containing mercury is very important. This is because if the pregnant woman is experiencing mercury poisoning, then a bad impact may occur.
Here are some negative effects of pregnant women with mercury poisoning:
ADHD or Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a disorder that causes the child to be difficult to focus and experience impulsive and hyperactive disorders. This can occur when the child is exposed to mercury while in the womb and the impact will be seen when he is 8 years old.
The higher the mercury levels that go into the pregnant mother’s body can lead to high risk for ADHD. It can make a child experience hyperactivity, impulsive behavior, and its concentration easily impaired. Therefore, restrictions on fish consumption need to be done.
Important Organ Disorders
Another side effect of mercury poisoning is the problem of an important organ in the child’s body after birth. This is generally the case over a period of birth. Mercury may cause the kidneys and heart to be disturbed. Thus, fatal disturbances can occur.
The fetus in the womb may also suffer birth defects if there is too much exposure from mercury. The effects of such mercury poisoning may cause babies to have abnormalities, such as smaller head sizes, brain damage, developmental delays, and intellectual disabilities.
Mercury Pollution Solutions
Cleaning mercury pollution requires a high cost and does not infrequently damage the environment. A research team from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center and the University of Maryland, Baltimore finds a new way that is cheaper and does not harm the environment to absorb mercury that pollutes the soil.
Activated carbon charcoal
Cynthia Gilmour (SERC), Upal Ghosh (UMBC) and the team succeeded in proving that activated carbon charcoal that has been processed to improve chemical binding capability, could reduce pollution in heavily polluted locations of mercury. This research has been published in the journal of “Environmental Science & Technology”.
The scientist team tested this technology in a laboratory to address pollution on mercury deposits from four locations: rivers, freshwater lakes and two locations of brackish water. Not only does it absorb mercury in the environment, it is also capable of reducing mercury pollution that is absorbed by earthworms.
With the spread of activated carbon in 5% of the polluted land surface, the amount of methyl mercury pollution absorbed by the worm can be reduced to more than 90%.
Activated carbon can be spread to the surface of the sediment or soil without interfering with the sediment or soil that has been contaminated with mercury. The activated carbon that absorbs mercury pollution eventually mixes with the soil layer. This research was the first research to utilize activated carbon to reduce mercury pollution in soil and water deposits.
One way of preventing mercury pollution is with phytoremediation. Phytoremediation is the concept of processing the wastewater using plant media. Phytoremediation is the use of plants or trees to set aside or neutralize contaminants, such as those in contaminated soil or water.
The main advantage of phytoremediation compared to other remediation systems, according is its ability to produce a secondary discharge that is lower in its toxic properties, it is more environmentally friendly and more economical.
Some examples of plants that can be used as a phytoremediation plant, namely water hyacinth, Kale water, Pistia, jatropha, water Bamboo, Lotus, and others,
Overcoming Mercury Contamination in Food Materials with bioremediation
Various methods have been developed to address the problem of mercury pollution, one of them with bioremediation, namely the efforts to restore environmental conditions that have been biologically polluted or by using living creatures.
Among these, there are microorganisms that play a role in modifying toxic pollutant compounds into other forms that are not toxic to living creatures and the environment. This method can be a solution in the prevention of mercury, such as on rivers in industrial areas.
Pseudomonas pituda strains are one of the microorganisms that can convert mercury into a less toxic form. This bacterium is able to break down mercury and turn Hg2 + into Hg0, which is safer. This ability is caused by a group of genes working together to convert Mercury. This group of genes is known as the Mer operon.
Bacteria that have a mer operon can be added to a polluted river with condition settings that correspond to its living conditions. By overcoming Mercury on the River industrial area, the harmful mercury rate of rivers flowing into the ocean and consumed by marine animals and humans can be reduced.