Wednesday, July 21, 2010

M is for Mercury

Nineteen states in the United States have issued advisories against eating many species of freshwater fish due to contamination with Mercury. All 50 states have advisories against eating some fishes because of mercury levels. How poisonous is Mercury? 1/70th of a teaspoon (one gram) is able to poison a 25-acre lake so the fish living in it cannot be ingested.

The EPA estimates that 1 in 6 American women of childbearing age have unsafe levels of mercury stored in her flesh, organs, blood and breast milk. Exposure to mercury can cause neurological, kidney, liver and heart damage. Mercury has been linked to autism, dyslexia, blindness and uncontrolled aggression. If pregnant women are exposed, their child have mental retardation and lowered I.Q.

The largest emitters of airborne mercury in the US are 1,100 coal-fired power plants that release 50 tons of mercury into the air every year. No matter what you see on TV, there is no such thing as clean coal. It is dirty, polluting and is causing environmental havoc that will last our lifetimes.

Coal Hard Facts
  • Mercury from coal plants has poisoned 100 percent of the waterways in 19 states and contaminated fish in all 50 states.

  • Acid rain from coal plants has sterilized 1/5 of the lakes in the Adirondacks and destroyed Appalachian forests from Georgia to North Quebec.

  • Ozone and particulates from coal plants are the primary cause of death for 60,000 Americans each year from respiratory failure; has caused increased asthma attacks; and, is responsible for a million lost work days.

  • Carbon from coal plants is the main cause of climate change (see this post or this post for more information on climate change).
NO, NO! to Natural Gas

Unfortunately, natural gas is not an answer to our energy needs. Exploration and production of natural gas is just as polluting as the exploration and production of oil. Natural gas is located underground and must be discovered and mined.During the exploration process, benzene, toluene, formaldehyde, methane, hydrogen sulfide, nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter are released into the air. These chemicals and toxins are known to cause asthma, cancer, neurological disorders, pulmonary reduction, coronary problems, endocrine disruption and debilitating headaches.


After watching the fiasco in the Gulf of Mexico for almost 3 months, I do not think most people agree that drilling off our shores is a good idea. It is a hard habit to break, but we need to stop using oil and gas. It will not happen all at once, but I believe it will happen.

What do I Think?

We must agree that oil, natural gas and coal should be our last resort and not our first choice for energy production. Wind power, solar power, hydraulic power, geothermal power, even power from the wave action of the oceans are all workable solutions. Invest in alternative power, make biofuels from wastes and provide funding for innovating thinking. We can solve the problems of oil, gas and coal. We may be able to remediate the mercury in the environment. It must first become a priority.


Source: July Letter from Robert F, Kennedy, Jr. , Chairman of Waterkeepers' Alliance


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