Scientists Uncover Lead Mystery

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Scientists from the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology Centre for Environmental Sensing and Modelling (SMART CENSAM) have found an unusual type of lead content in the sea around Singapore. The lead isotope has levels five to 10 times higher than in an uncontaminated area in Singapore. The SMART CENSAM team has been measuring levels of lead in the sea around Singapore since 2010 by drilling coral and will be working to uncover the source of this pollutant. Possible sources include lead paint used on old ships, lead used in car parts and batteries or industrial effluent washed into the sea over decades; naturally occurring lead found in mud; or illegal dumping.

Principal investigator Professor Edward Boyle said that the lead levels are still harmless to humans and marine life, though he believes the isotope could point to a pollutant originating here or from neighbouring countries. ST said the SMART’s work is part of a global study led by MIT to trace lead pollution in oceans. It added that their work will last until 2018 and cost about $1.6 million and this is funded by the National Research Foundation.

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