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Demercurize the Whales

But first you have to shoot them.
  [vote for,

As a boy, I was very impressed when my dad once spilled some liquid mercury into his hand. It touched his gold ring and turned it the color of pine wood. Mercury binds tightly to gold, which is why it is used in mining operations requiring gold extractions.

Conversely, gold binds tightly to mercury, and is biologically fairly inert. I propose that this effect could be used to sequester bioavailable mercury from long lived whales, who accumulate large quantities over their lifetimes. The whales would be tracked down and shot with small gauge shot made of solid gold. The shot would be constructed to be porous, and thus have maximal surface area. The bullets would lodge in the whale and gradually attract the mercury out of the surrounding tissues, binding it to the gold where it would remain harmless.

When the whale died, the gold would continue to tightly bind the mercury, and it would not be released back into the biosphere.

Mercury remediation licenses would be issued to interested parties would would track the whales and then pepper them with gold-containing shot, for their own good. The process could be tested first on seals, which are more accessable and also pretty big and easy to shoot.

bungston, Jun 29 2005

Mercury extraction scheme Mercury_20Extractio...From_20Food_20Chain
I like the general idea, but do not like the idea of having to cull so many whales. [bungston, Jun 29 2005]


       How about releasing tiny pieces of gold-leaf into their feeding areas?
zen_tom, Jun 29 2005

       /Inuit mothers/ - that is a great idea, UB. Not to shoot them, but to use gold to treat them. Pharmaceutical gold is available and has been used for decades to treat rheumatoid arthritis. However, if a gold implant were placed it could later be removed and analyzed to see how much mercury it picked up.   

       One would not need to limit this to mothers - presumably all the Inuit are contaminated.
bungston, Jun 29 2005

       Re gold leaf - [zen], you need to have a party with a few bottles of Goldschlager along with some day-old taco cart burritos. You will note that the gold leaf passes thru, unimpeded.
bungston, Jun 29 2005

       [UnaBubba]/[bungston], it was Goldslager I was thinking of - not noticed its retention rate after drinking it though. As for SG, it's very fine leaf, it may hang around long enough to get picked up by the whales, or their prey - one way or another. It should be just as floaty as mercury, if not more.   

       And even if whales are not bottom-feeders, and the gold-leaf sinks, it doesn't matter as long as the real groundfeeders and the whales are somewhere in the foodchain. However, that takes us back to the issue of gold retention.
zen_tom, Jun 29 2005

       I haven't checked this, but I thought the whale food chain went something like sunlight -> phytoplankton -> zooplankton -> whales, so none of it goes anywhere near the sea bottom.
pertinax, Sep 17 2009

       The mercury that's absorbed into the body (by humans, at least) is mainly organomercury compounds, especially ethylmercury, as well as mercury vapor. Liquid mercury just isn't absorbable enough. This suggests that the mercury in whales (and probably that in tuna as well) is in the organomercury form. Is that stuff sufficiently reactive with gold, or does that only work for metallic mercury?
notexactly, Jul 01 2019


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