Dead Sea air filled with high levels of oxidized Mercury

Scientists discovered that the atmosphere over the Dead Sea is laden with oxidized mercury.

Washington: A group of scientists has recently discovered that the atmosphere over the Dead Sea is laden with oxidized mercury which is causing interesting effects in the air above it.

Experts took measurements of the air quality above the lake, and identified several periods of extremely high atmospheric oxidized mercury.

Research scientist Daniel Obrist and colleagues at the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nevada, and at Hebrew University in Israel led the work.

Obrist said that high levels of oxidized mercury are a concern because this form is deposited quickly in the environment after its formation.

After it``s deposited, mercury can accumulate through the food chain where it may reach very high levels.

“These levels are of major concern to humans especially in the consumption of mercury-laden fish,” said Obrist.

“We``ve found near-complete depletion of elemental mercury - and formation of some of the highest oxidized mercury levels ever seen - above the Dead Sea, a place where temperatures reach 45 degrees Celsius,” he added.

Such pronounced mercury depletion events were unexpected outside the frigid poles, as high temperatures were thought to impede this chemical process, according to the researchers.

The mechanisms involved in the conversion of mercury above the Dead Sea appear similar, however, to those in polar regions: both start with halogens, they claim.

Halogens, or halogen elements, are non-metal elements such as fluorine, chlorine, bromine and iodine.

The results were published online in the journal Nature Geoscience.