The House Resources Committee just released a report
saying toxic mercury pollution has been overstated. The report happens to contradict the EPA's views of mercury health risks
. This is in response to Republicans wanting to push Bush's environmental policies, which are already slanted toward his industry friends. Among the health risks with being exposed to merucry:
For fetuses, infants, and children, the primary health effect of methylmercury is impaired neurological development. Methylmercury exposure in the womb, which can result from a mother's consumption of fish and shellfish that contain methylmercury, can adversely affect a baby's growing brain and nervous system. Impacts on cognitive thinking, memory, attention, language, and fine motor and visual spatial skills have been seen in children exposed to methylmercury in the womb.
Outbreaks of methylmercury poisonings have made it clear that adults, children, and developing fetuses are at risk from ingestion exposure to methylmercury. During these poisoning outbreaks some mothers with no symptoms of nervous system damage gave birth to infants with severe disabilities, it became clear that the developing nervous system of the fetus may be more vulnerable to methylmercury than is the adult nervous system.
So who's right? The agency that has done scientific work on mercury, or a bunch of Republicans that want to help Bush force environmental policies (which are basically non-existent) onto the country and thus putting everybody at risk.
Also note this quote on who wrote the report:
The report, written by aides to the committee's majority Republicans and being released Wednesday, also says no link between mercury from coal-burning power plants and levels of mercury in fish has been scientifically established. (emphasis supplied)
Note that no scientists or experts on the environment wrote this report, only politicians who are trying to push an agenda.
Here's more information in a diary I posted a short time ago on mercury poisoning and it being released into the environment.
The problem with mercury in the environment is that it gets concentrated in the food chain. When introduced into the environment from coal burning, the mercury is suspended in the air, where it can travel in the atmosphere for many miles. Eventually, the mercury will precipitate to the surface, either into the water or the soil. Some organisms, like fish, will consume small amounts of mercury when they feed. Larger fish will eat several of the fish that consumed the mercury, causing the small amounts of mercury in each of the fish to accumulate into larger, more dangerous amounts. The more contaminated fish eaten results in more accumulated mercury. Eventually, humans may feed on these fish with high amounts of mercury in them. Eating several of the contaminated fish will cause humans to buildup mercury in their systems. This is why there are advisories about eating too many fish, especially where pollution may be high.
One of the main reasons mercury is so dangerous is because it is insoluble inside the human body in most cases, and can't be removed from the body easily. By the time mercury is inside the human body, biogeochemical processes have converted mercury the organic molecule methylmercury. The mercury will bind to the sulfhydryl groups of enzymes and proteins, thereby inactivating vital cell functions and ultimately killing the cell. More mercury inside the body will result in the death of more cells. If the dead cells are in a place like the lungs or heart, these dead cells can cause serious harm to humans, potentially killing them.
So basically, once the mercury is inside the body, there isn't much one can do about it, except avoid ingesting more mercury. The logical thing, therefore, is to prevent mercury from even being introduced into the environment before it can do damage. But this can sometimes be difficult. Coal contains minor amount of mercury, so burning any amount of coal can potentially release mercury into the environment.
The worst administration on the environment strikes again. The public must know about the dangers of mercury in fish and their judgement cannot be impaired by biased results. Only sound, scientific information should be used in making decisions in situations like this.