Mackenzie River Delta Mercury Levels found to be High
University of Alberta researchers conducting a water study in the Mackenzie River Delta have found a dramatically higher delivery of mercury from the Mackenzie River to the Arctic Ocean than determined in previous studies.
Researcher Jennifer Graydon analyzed water in the Mackenzie River as it flowed north into the Beaufort Sea. She collected samples for three months and discovered the total amount of mercury exported from the river during that three-month period was equal to an entire year's worth of mercury calculated in previous studies.
Graydon's research and previous studies measured export of all chemical forms of mercury in water including methyl mercury.
"Methyl mercury is a neurotoxin and it's primarily passed on to humans through contaminated fish muscle," Graydon said. "This leaves northern communities vulnerable, because a large part of their diet is Arctic fish species and Beluga whales." Gradyon says existing studies already show Beluga whales in the western Arctic have higher mercury levels in their flesh than Belugas in the eastern Arctic. The Mackenzie River empties in the Beaufort Sea at the western edge of the Northwest Territories.
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