Researchers find high levels of mercury in CA coastal fog

This is the story I found at this year's fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union — how fog off California's coastal coast may be importing mercury from the ocean on to the land. 

The team, led by chemist Peter Weiss-Penzias, reported finding "very high" levels of mercury, a neurotoxin, in the fog, according to a paper presented Thursday to a geophysical science conference in San Francisco on Thursday.

"These are unheard of levels for methylmercury," said Weiss-Penzias. "People have measured methylmercury downstream from old mercury mines, where the bugs [microbes] have to convert inorganic mercury in sediment into methylmercury, and the highest levels they found were four parts per trillion. Well, our highest levels were 10 parts per trillion."

Weiss-Penzias suggested that it's possible that there is a "wash-out" — a sort of invisible bathtub ring of methylmercury left behind by the fog. That's where he hopes to take his research next. 

Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

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