Beth Carraway: Mercury

Elizabeth Carraway, PhD
Environmental Engineering & Earth Sciences
One of the main focus areas of my research, one of the areas that I’m most interested in right now has to do with Mercury – the metal mercury – and how it behaves in the environment – both the mercury that got here naturally from sources like volcanoes; as well as anthropogenic, or human, sources of mercury.
When you look at mercury in the environment, it’s a problem. Plants and animals can take it up and build it up to higher levels such that it becomes toxic to other animals and toxic to humans that say eat the fish that have built up these levels of mercury.
It’s pretty complicated chemistry and we don’t have a real thorough understanding of that chemistry. So the more we understand, the more we know how these pathways work and then the better agencies, like EPA – whether it’s the state level agency or the federal level agency – then the better we are prepared to develop regulations and guidelines that say this is an acceptable level of mercury and this is not an acceptable level of mercury.

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