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 toxic vapors.
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 control efforts.
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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