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High levels of mercury in Florida's top-level predatory fish

An Environmental Pollutant for Decades

Natural sources of mercury exist in the environment. Still, in Florida, there are high levels of mercury in the air that are a severe threat to human health—originating from power plants fired by coal. Mercury can travel, especially far through the air. After leaving the smokestack, mercury falls to the ground, contaminates waterways, and accumulates in fish. Eating fish is the primary source of human exposure to mercury.

For mercury to contaminate the ecosystem, it must be converted into a neurotoxin called methylmercury. The bacteria responsible for producing methylmercury is a sulfate. Mercury goes into the atmosphere from emissions and returns to the earth's surface with rain that then enters our waterways. 

Top-predator fish (largemouth bass, bowfin, and gar) accumulate concentrations of methylmercury high enough to be harmful to humans and wildlife. It becomes more concentrated as it moved up the food chain. There are "do not eat" fish consumption advisories throughout Florida. 

Some of the highest levels of methylmercury recorded in the United States have been in Florida. The toxic compound was found at high levels in dolphins and fish. It also affects raccoons, alligators, and wildlife that consume fish. Studies have shown mercury as a neurotoxin. Children are most at risk from mercury poisoning. It is damaging to human health as it severely damages the brain and nervous system when in contact with or inhaled. All in all, mercury is one of the most deadly toxic pollutants in the air.

There are different solutions to these growing issues like limiting pollution at its source, better laws to protect the environment, and establishing limits on pollution that's protective of health. We can also take action through the personal choices we make by looking for non-toxic solutions.

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