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Monday, January 4, 2016

Report: SF Bay's Beloved Fog is Toxic, Out to Get You

Posted By on Mon, Jan 4, 2016 at 6:55 PM

click to enlarge the-fog.jpg
Like tuna fish and children's toys made overseas (which is to say: all toys), the San Francisco Bay Area's legendary fog may look and taste good, but don't be fooled: it's a toxic brew.

Hanging on in the condensation that envelops our fair city like a wet wool blanket are droplets of mercury — and at concentrations 20 times that of the mercury found in regular old rain, according to scientists at UC Santa Cruz and elsewhere.

And mercury, a byproduct of burning the fossil fuels that bring us all the pretty things we enjoy, is a neurotoxin, the San Francisco Chronicle reported today. All of a sudden, the fact that climate change is reducing San Francisco's iconic fog isn't so terrible anymore.

The revelation that fog has mercury in it comes from scientists from UC Santa Cruz and elsewhere who formed an outfit called FogNet. FogNet collected samples of water from the fog at over the past two summers.

How does the mercury get there? From the ocean, basically: water from the California current in the Pacific Ocean mixes with "evaporated droplets of ocean spray" which is then sent landward via the fog. 

So is it safe? Yes and no. There aren't levels of mercury in the fog sufficient to harm humans or cause birth defects — but fog does accumulate in human bodies over time. Already, there are wolf spiders with levels of mercury in their bodies well above accepted safe levels, suggesting that mercury is entering the local environment — and, by extension, our food and water supplies — via the fog.

The source of this mercury in the first place, of course, are fossil fuels — and California continues to derive over half of its energy from fossil fuels. 
Maybe Karl is right.

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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