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NewsHour Extra Lesson Plan: Mercury in the Environment
In March, 2005, the Environmental Protection Agency announced new rules for mercury that power plants release into the air when they burn coal to make electricity. The plan, called the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR), is designed to limit the tonnage of mercury that is released per year. This lesson on mercury contamination begins with a video about CAIR, and has students read a short article about mercury contamination of aquatic ecosystems. A hands-on activity teaches students how to determine the percentage of mercury in a sample of coal. A demonstration about testing for mercury in coal and in drinking water using cold vapor atomic absorption spectrophotometry ends the lesson.
Intended for grade levels:
  • Middle (6-8)
  • High (9-12)
Type of resource:
  • For the classroom:
    • Lesson plan
  • Chemistry
  • Environmental science
  • Geological Sciences:
    • Geology
Technical requirements:
RealPlayer is required to view video
Cost / Copyright:
No cost
Copyright 2006 MacNeil-Lehrer Productions. All rights reserved.
DLESE Catalog ID: DLESE-000-000-009-298
Educational standards:
  • National Science Education Standards (NSES):
    • 9-12:
      • A - Science as inquiry:
        • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry
      • B - Physical science:
        • Chemical reactions
        • Structure and properties of matter
      • D - Earth and space science:
        • Geochemical cycles
      • E - Science and technology:
        • Understandings about science and technology
      • F - Science in personal / social perspectives:
        • Natural and human-induced hazards
Resource contact / Creator / Publisher:
Contact: Leah Clapman
Public Broadcasting System (PBS)