Quicksilver, Slow Kids
World leaders urgently need to take action to cut down on mercury emissions to protect human health, according to a new report by the United Nations Environment Programme. Mercury is released into the atmosphere naturally from rocks, soils, and volcanic eruptions, but mercury emissions have dramatically increased from pre-industrial levels due to human activity. Seventy percent of all artificial mercury emissions stem from coal-fired power plants. According to the report, mercury causes central nervous system damage, including numbness, loss of balance, fatigue, ringing in the ears, and problems with vision, hearing, and speech; it has also been linked to cardiovascular, thyroid, and digestive troubles. Pregnant women, infants, children, and those whose diet relies heavily on fish are especially at risk. In urging governments to reduce emissions, the UNEP report noted that technologies to do so already exist.