Be Mercury Free is a collaborative partnership between Regional San and the Sacramento Stormwater Quality
Partnership (which includes the County of Sacramento and the
Cities of Sacramento, Citrus Heights, Elk Grove, Folsom, Galt and
Rancho Cordova). Together, these partners are working to educate
Sacramento residents and businesses about the sources and effects
of mercury and how to reduce the amount of mercury entering the
Sacramento River watershed.
Mercury is toxic to both humans and aquatic life (e.g., fish and
shellfish), if ingested. Mercury exposure at high levels can
result in adverse health effects that
harm the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs and immune system of people
of all ages. Unborn babies and young children are especially
vulnerable, as exposure to high levels of mercury can damage
their developing nervous systems and thereby affect their ability
to think and learn.
Mercury is a naturally occurring element that is found
in air, water and soil. It exists in several forms—elemental
(also known as metallic mercury), inorganic and organic. Pure
elemental mercury, also called quicksilver, is a silvery liquid
metal that easily evaporates, giving off invisible, odorless and
Mercury cannot be created or destroyed, and exposure to
mercury—even small amounts—can cause serious health problems.
Mercury can be found in many common household products such as
fluorescent bulbs, silver thermometers and older wall
thermostats. If mishandled, these items can break, spilling
mercury and releasing an invisible poisonous vapor that is
harmful to human health. Take a few minutes to learn how you can
make your home mercury free!
Institutional sources of mercury pollution have been identified,
and various efforts have been made to reduce the use of
mercury-containing equipment and chemicals by hospitals, schools,
universities and dental offices. Outreach has also been conducted
to educate these institutional users about proper disposal of
mercury and mercury-containing equipment and products, as well as
effective containment of potential mercury spills.
This section explains some of the history and dynamics of mercury
pollution in the Central Valley, including the lasting effects of
our gold mining legacy, the behavior of mercury in our
environment, and Regional San’s active involvement in mercury
Mercury in waterways can be converted by certain
bacteria to more toxic methylmercury, which accumulates in the
tissue of fish as it passes over their gills and as they feed on
other aquatic organisms. As larger fish eat smaller ones,
concentrations of the pollutant increase in the bigger fish, a
process known as bioaccumulation. Thus, mercury enters the food
chain and becomes concentrated.
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