The advance of civilisation is steadily taking its toll. Recent researches have estimated that the global mercury content in the atmosphere is almost 5,000 tonnes while the oceans contain as much as 10,000 tonnes of mercury in them. These figures become scary when comparisons are made with the pre–industrial revolution limits, which were around 1,600 tonnes and 3,600 tonnes in the atmosphere and the oceans respectively. It is said that during the last century, mercury emissions have shot up from 200 to 500%! Experts at the United Nations Environment Programme in September 2002 contended that an equivalent of 0.002% teaspoonful of mercury spread in a lake area of 20 acres, makes fish unfit for consumption and that sustained international action is required to check the adverse impact of mercury poisoning.
Emitted primarily from the coal-fired thermal power plants, mercury is known to cause severe neurological disorder, as also visual and mental disabilities (including retardation) in foetuses and young children. Scientists have estimated that children born to women with mercury levels above 5.8 part per billion (ppb) in blood, suffer from non-neurological disorders including kidney and lung damages. Dangerously, a survey in the US estimated that around 8% of pregnant women had crossed the 5.8 ppb limit.
It is perhaps the right time when global consensus is generated and check the high rise of mercury, both in its elemental form as also on the impact that it signifies.