Exciting change is on the way! Please join us at nsf.gov for the latest news on NSF-funded research. While the NSF Science360 page and daily newsletter have now been retired, there’s much happening at nsf.gov. You’ll find current research news on the homepage and much more to explore throughout the site. Best of all, we’ve begun to build a brand-new website that will bring together news, social media, multimedia and more in a way that offers visitors a rich, rewarding, user-friendly experience.

Want to continue to receive email updates on the latest NSF research news and multimedia content? On September 23rd we’ll begin sending those updates via GovDelivery. If you’d prefer not to receive them, please unsubscribe now from Science360 News and your email address will not be moved into the new system.

Thanks so much for being part of the NSF Science360 News Service community. We hope you’ll stay with us during this transition so that we can continue to share the many ways NSF-funded research is advancing knowledge that transforms our future.

For additional information, please contact us at NewsTravels@nsf.gov

Top Story

Small gold mines in Senegal create high mercury contamination

A Duke University-led study has found dangerously high levels of mercury and its more toxic chemical cousin, methylmercury, in soils, sediments and rivers near artisanal gold mines in the West African nation of Senegal. Mercury poisoning can cause a wide range of health impacts, including tremors, muscle weakness, vision and hearing impairments, and loss of coordination and balance. In severe cases, it can lead to birth defects or death. Artisanal gold miners in Senegal and many other developing nations use mercury to separate gold ore from soil and sediments, often with inadequate safeguards to protect themselves or the surrounding environment. This process results in large amounts of mercury being burned off into the atmosphere or spilled into nearby soils and waters. Scientists previously believed that mercury from these mines is converted into its more toxic form, methylmercury, mostly in aquatic ecosystems. However, according to one researcher, this study conclusively shows that methylmercury is also being formed in soil systems. This newfound knowledge raises concerns that villagers could be exposed to mercury not only by eating contaminated fish from the water, but also by eating crops grown on contaminated soil or livestock grazing on this land.

Visit Website | Image credit: Jacqueline Gerson/Duke University