How is mercury contamination a problem for polar bears?



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    Approximately 150 tons of human-generated mercury enters the environment each year. In the Arctic, this mercury is absorbed and converted into highly toxic methylmercury by microorganisms. As this methylmercury moves up the food chain –phytoplankton ingested by small fish, small fish ingested by bigger fish, bigger fish ingested by polar bears — it becomes increasingly concentrated, a process called bioaccumulation. Levels of mercury have risen dramatically in the blood and tissues of not only polar bears but other Arctic denizens, such as seals and native Eskimos. Sea ice and atmospheric changes also appear to play a role in increased mercury deposition in the Arctic.

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