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this is what you shall do:: Mercury, Coal and Bush, Oh My

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Mercury, Coal and Bush, Oh My

An article in this month's Discover magazine (read the whole great thing here) outlines the woes of Mercury and what we as a world are and are not doing about it. Tieing most of the mercury woes to industrial waste, and more specifically waste from coal burning power generation plants, the articles is a stunning slap to the noggin. We are ignoring the waste and the effects of mercury at our peril. If we don't take drastic measures to stem that pollution and its long term effects from even small dose exposure to this dangerous chemical vapor, then we face a path of industrial pollution and environmental ruin that may very well be impossible to fix. The Clinton administration proposed reducing mercury emissions in power plants by 90 percent by 2008. But, thinking he knew better, Bush has decided to slow that wagon down and instead is proposing to reduce those emissions by 70 percent by 2018, as well as to shun the Kyoto protocol, a world wide treaty to stem ozone layer eroding emissions (of which mercury is certainly one of) I would hate to think that business and industry concerns from Big Coal and Big Oil guided him in those decisions. But environmental groups, city and state health departments and others are now preparing to sue the EPA to get enforcement in line with the Clinton proposals. It may work. It wasn't too many years ago that we began to understand the problems seen from exposure to lead and asbestos. And the EPA dragged its feet on those issues as well. The courts finally got involved and now lead and asbestos issues are managed and regulated, easing many, many health and environmental issues. If you value eating fish; consuming dairy; breathing air; eating food grown in farms, harvested from non polluted soil or drinking water; if you are concerned about preventing cancer, especially rare and untreatable cancers; if you want to ensure you suffer from no auto immune diseases or want to make sure your children don't develop ADD or autism you have a vested interest in reducing mercury exposure in our environment. Hmm, that list should just about cover everybody. As a kid, I remember the neighbor kid had access to liquid mercury, apparently once used in welding. We used to play with it for hours in the garage. Probably not too wise. And looking at my home town, plagued with lots of Multiple Sclerosis patients, lots of lupis patients, lots of twins (?) and lots of ADHD, I have said over and over again it is all because of the coal dust. With what I am learning about mercury exposure, there just might be something too that. Addendum: Apparently, even my slightly polluted home town is starting to see the light.