Mercury pollution from Volcanoes

September 6, 2010 at 12:37 am • Posted in ALL POSTS, Mercury, Science740 Comments

Several months ago, I read that the Centralia coal-fired steam plant was estimated to be putting out 1 to 3 pounds of elemental mercury per day. This might have seemed to be a serious problem to me if I wasn’t aware of the fact that volcanoes and other naturally occuring sources put tens of thousands of pounds of elemental mercury into the environment each day. Mount St. Helens put out more than 2000 pounds of mercury per day when it was at its active stage. Kilauea volcano in Hawaii puts out 1500 pounds per day and has been doing so for years. (This would be equivalent to the amount recovered be recycling 861 million fluorescent light bulbs per day.).
Volcanoes worldwide discharge every element known to man in massive quantities. The wind and water spread these elements and chemicals to every place on this earth. Toxic or not,these materials are a naturally occurring part of the environment. When I called the Washington State Dept. of Ecology, to suggest to them they should start monitoring the rainwater for mercury, I was informed that sampling for mercury had recently begun near Neah Bay. I was given the web address of the site. Though the site did not have rainfall totals or wind directions on the site, the data clearly indicates that there were periodic episodes of mercury deposition at the site (Note: There are no man caused sources for mercury in that region of the state).
It intrigues me that everyone seems so focused on mercury pollution when the amount of uranium and thorium (Both are radioactive) are 8 to 24 times more abundant in the earth’s crust than mercury. There are at least 20 known occurances of uranium in Washington alone.
Kilauea also emits 10,000 TONS of CO2 per day, 4000 TONS of SO2 per day (ultimately yielding 6000 TONS af pure surfuric acid per day) 4000 gallons of water per MINUTE, and dozens of other toxic metals and hazardous minerals in varying quantities EACH DAY. These are the emissions of only ONE volcano. One must remember that there are also many undersea vents to consider.¬†¬†Readers should google the term “vog”.¬† That will be a real eye opener.