What is Mercury?
Mercury, designated by the symbol Hg in the periodic table and having the atomic number 80, is a shiny, silvery-white metal with the unique property of existing in liquid form at room temperature. This element has a long history of applications in different industries, including electrical equipment, thermometers, barometers, and fluorescent lights, as well as being used in dental amalgams. The element has a high degree of pollution. It contaminates both the soil and seawater. The contamination of seawater is caused by different things.
Once in the water, certain microorganisms can transform the mercury into methylmercury, a highly toxic and bioaccumulative form of the element. Methylmercury can then enter the food chain through a process called biomagnification. Small aquatic organisms absorb the methylmercury from the water, and when larger fish consume these smaller organisms, the methylmercury accumulates in their tissues. Fish- and seafood are thus susceptible to mercury contamination, especially larger predatory fish like tuna, which tend to accumulate higher levels of this toxic metal due to their high position in the food chain.
Mercury is known to be a potent neurotoxin and can cause severe health issues in humans, particularly affecting the nervous system, kidneys, and immune system. Prolonged exposure to even low levels of mercury can lead to developmental problems in children and neurological disorders in adults. This is why the European Union has set maximum levels for mercury in the EU Commission Regulation 2023/915 on maximum levels for certain contaminants in food.
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