There is a large problem threatening the Florida Everglades increasingly everyday. Its called mercury. This deadly chemical has entered the food chain in an organic form called Methymercury. The Everglades provides plenty of warmth, sunlight, and certain bacteria which combine to form the perfect ingredients for the reaction of inorganic mercury mixing with organic matter to form methymercury. Most scientist agree that the mercury found in the Everglades is brought there via winds and traveling from as far as Europe and Africa.
It then travels through the rain and is absorbed by bacteria. This marks the beginning of the food chain problem. The bacteria is consumed by plankton organisms who are then eaten by larger invertebrate animals. These become lunch for even larger organisms such as snails and freshwater shrimp, then farther up the food chain to small fish. These fall victim to such predators as gar, bowfin, warmouth, largemouth bass, and in particular, birds such as kingfishers, egrets and herons who eat almost nothing else.
And finally at the top of this chain are common mammals of this environment such as raccoons, panthers, alligators and of course, humans. What are the results of this dangerous intake of mercury? Studies have shown that when consumed in large quantities, mercury can cause brain and nerve damage, seizures, kidney failure, blindness and can also be transferred from pregnant mother to child. Scientists say mercury found in parts of the Everglades, and in some of its animal population, is seven times higher than federal safety limits. A 1995 lab study showed that when Egrets where fed mercury tainted fish they lost their reproductive abilities. However you look at it, mercury is a serious health threat to the Everglades and surrounding communities. Not much seems to be being done to correct this threat. Periodical surveys of fishing areas and warnings against eating certain fish has been issued.
In fact, many Everglades fish and all alligators are officially classified too dangerous for humans to eat. Most of them along with some turtles wading birds, raccoons and even some insects suffer mercury burdens far above normal. According to the article Mercury in Their Midst, “The average concentration of methylmercury in a fillet of an Everglades largemouth bass is 1.5 parts per million (ppm), three times what the states Department of Health calls safe.” Some scientist believe there really is nothing we can do about this mercury problem. They say that is quickly becoming a global problem. Unfortunately, this dangerous level of mercury in Everglades life is not common knowledge. You have to search hard for information regarding it.
It is probably not something you will see on the ten oclock news. But it is a problem that must be addressed and one that needs prevention and possibly a solution. As if the disappearing land of the Everglades had not posed a problem enough, now mercury is just one more thing to add to its list of troubles.