Climate change: Sunderbans water system toxic

Climate change: Sunderbans water system toxic
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Climate Change: Sunderbans Water System Toxic. Climate change is causing toxic metals trapped in the sediment beds of the Hooghly estuary in the Indian Sunderbans to leach out into the water system due to changes in ocean chemistry, say scientists, warning of potential human health hazards.

Kolkata: Climate change is causing toxic metals trapped in the sediment beds of the Hooghly estuary in the Indian Sunderbans to leach out into the water system due to changes in ocean chemistry, say scientists, warning of potential human health hazards.

They predict that after about 30 years, increasing ocean acidification - another dark side of spiked atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide - could in fact unlock the entire stock of metals like copper and lead gathered in the sediment layer, and release them into the water system, leading to health issues.

Sunderbans is the world's largest mangrove forest and home to the endangered Royal Bengal tiger. More than two-thirds of the forest lies in Bangladesh and the rest in West Bengal. Oceans act as cleansers by taking up a chunk (around one-fourth) of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere. As atmospheric carbon dioxide levels shoot up, the levels absorbed by oceans increase, lowering their pH (indicator of acidity) and making them more acidic (ocean acidification).

Through the water, toxic metals are finding their way into the muscles and tissues of certain edible finfish, popular in the Indian Sunderbans area in West Bengal and because of the food chain, they pose a threat to human health as well, say researchers.

"This ocean acidification is leading to release of the toxic, carcinogenic metals into the water. Our study based on 30 years of real-time data (from 1984 to 2013) forecasts a significant lowering of pH after a period of 30 years due to ocean acidification. This is an offshoot of climate change.

"As a result, this will lead to the movement of entire biologically available copper and lead (but not zinc) from the underlying sediment compartment to the overlying aquatic phase," Abhijit Mitra, advisor, Oceanography, Techno India University (TIU) here, told IANS.

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