Why you should be concerned about mercury pollution


Mercury poisoning marches through our culture with a 400-year-old trail, at least.  “Mad as a hatter” refers to the nerve damage hatmakers in Europe demonstrated, nerve damage we now know came from mercury poisoning.

In the 20th century annals of pollution control, the Minimata disaster stands as a monument to unintended grotesque consequences of pollution, of mercury poisoning.

A key Japanese documentary on the disaster is now available from Zakka Films on DVD, with English subtitles.

Anyone who scoffs at EPA’s four-decades of work to reduce mercury pollution should watch this film before bellyaching about damage to industry if we don’t allow industry to kill babies and kittens in blind, immoral pursuit of profit at public expense.

American Elephants, for example, is both shameless and reckless  in concocting lies about mercury pollution regulation (that site will not allow comments that do not sing in harmony with the pro-pollution campaign (I’d love for someone to prove me wrong)).  Almost every claim made at that post is false.  Mercury is not harmless; mercury from broken CFL bulbs cannot begin to compare to mercury in fish and other animals; mercury pollution is not minuscule (mercury warnings stand in all 48 contiguous states, warning against consumption of certain fish).  President Obama has never urged anything but support for the coal-fired power industry — although he has expressed concerns about pollution, as any sane human would.

Republicans have lost their moral compass, and that loss is demonstrated in the unholy campaign for pollution, the campaign against reducing mercury emissions.  It’s tragic.  Action will be required in November to stop the tragedy from spreading.  Will Americans respond as they should at the ballot boxes?

Can you watch “Minimata:  The Victims and Their World,” and not urge stronger controls on mercury emissions?  Can you support the murder of children and workers, for profit?

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2 Responses to Why you should be concerned about mercury pollution

  1. Ed Darrell says:

    Mr. Hazlett, you’re right, we probably should compare the mercury emissions from an incandescent bulb to the mercury content of a CFL — the emissions are sure pollution and much greater, the CFL is a problem, only temporarily, if the bulb breaks.

    So we get a double benefit if we switch to CFLs and reduce mercury emissions at the same time.

    Obama’s too enthusiastic about coal, I fear. The mercury rules should have been promulgated two or three years ago. Late is better than never.

    Update: Here’s a chart comparing mercury pollution from incandescents and CFLs, from TVA:
    Mercury pollution from incandescents, versus compact fluorescent light bulbs

    TVA said:

    Mercury

    Mercury is an essential component of CFLs that allows them to operate efficiently. Here are some key facts about mercury:

    CFLs contain a very small amount of mercury, about five milligrams, sealed within the glass tubing. No mercury is released when the bulb is intact or in use.
    The power produced by burning coal to light an incandescent bulb releases more mercury into the environment than the power produced to light a CFL (see chart below[above]).
    Therefore, CFLs are more environmentally friendly even if they are discarded improperly.
    To gain the greatest environmental advantage from CFLs, they should be recycled.

    Even if CFLs are disposed of improperly, they produce less mercury pollution than an incandescent . . . wow.

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  2. “Almost every claim made at that post is false. Mercury is not harmless; mercury from broken CFL bulbs cannot begin to compare to mercury in fish and other animals; mercury pollution is not minuscule (mercury warnings stand in all 48 contiguous states, warning against consumption of certain fish). President Obama has never urged anything but support for the coal-fired power industry — although he has expressed concerns about pollution, as any sane human would.”

    The article makes no explicit mention that “Mercury is harmless.” Your statement here is simply inaccurate.

    “mercury from broken CFL bulbs cannot begin to compare to mercury in fish and other animals;”

    You haven’t substantiated this claim. What are your metrics? Grams of mercury, ppm in the air? I’m not saying you’re wrong, but you should have some objective criteria against which to measure this claim. Right now you have none.

    A better way to attack the claim that CFLs result in more mercury emissions would be to argue that mercury emissions from CFL bulbs are less than those for Incandescent bulbs over a five-year period (see http://www.gelighting.com/na/home_lighting/ask_us/downloads/MercuryInCFLs.pdf). ~36% lower in fact.

    “President Obama has never urged anything but support for the coal-fired power industry”

    This claim is certainly true. Obama comes from a coal-fired power plant-supporting state (Illinois) after all.

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