800 tons of mercury

Just another weekend at Mt. Etna.

Man-made vs. natural disasters:

During the last year or so I have had reason to study Sweden’s largest environmental disaster, the Nautanen Mining field. The Nautanen mines where active from 1902 until 1909 and in comparison to other Swedish mines the Nautanen field is puny. Still it releases more heavy metals into the surrounding waters than all other Swedish mines, historic and present, put together. It is estimated that if Nautanen is left without any measures taken somewhere in the range of 50 to 100 tons of heavy metals (mainly copper) will be released into the surrounding waters….

Let us go through what was released during [Pinatubo’s] VEI-6 eruption. While reading the numbers keep in mind the Nautanen maximum figure of 100 tons of heavy metals. Pinatubo produced 800 000 tons of zinc, 600 000 tons of copper, 550 000 tons of chromium, 300 000 tons of nickel, 100 000 tons of lead, 10 000 tons of arsenic, 1 000 tons of cadmium and 800 tons of mercury. All of it in the form of ash that was spread not only locally in layers tens of meters thick, it was also dispersed across the globe.

The concentration of heavy metals is so high that it causes birth defects, cancer, neurological disorders, liver and renal failure, heart and lung deceases and the list just goes on and on. It has been estimated that Pinatubo has shortened the lifespan on the island of Luzon by as much as a decade. That equates to 7 000 000 people in mortality if we recount the lost life years into average human life expectancy in the Philippines.