Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Crazy 'bout a Mercury

Up is down. Black is white. Right is wrong. Well, clearly the right is wrong about this too. From the north woods of Wisconsin we learn that:

A newly announced federal order to reduce mercury pollution from coal-burning power plants will require weakening more stringent state controls that were enacted in Wisconsin only last year, a state official says.

Say wha?

The Bush administration ordered Tuesday that power plants cut mercury pollution from smokestacks by nearly half within 15 years, but the worst polluters will be able to buy pollution "credits" from plants that give off less mercury than allowed.

By contrast, the state rule, effective last Oct. 1, required the state's four major power plants to cut mercury emissions in two phases - by 40 percent by 2010 and by 75 percent by 2015.

So polluters are given a "get out of jail free" card to do what they do best: pollute. By buying "credits" from better performing facilities, they can actually release more crap into the environment than before. How diabolical!

But what's the big deal about mercury? Well, let's see:

For starters, as an anecdote, Sam Seder said tonight on AirAmerica that his pregnant wife had been ordered to NOT eat any tuna during the pregnance. Why? Well...

Mercury in water can accumulate in fish, and eating too much mercury-contaminated fish can damage kidneys and the nervous system.

Because of high mercury levels, all Wisconsin lakes are under a fish consumption advisory alerting people to limit the number of fish they eat, particularly children and women who are of childbearing age.

In case this isn't ominous enough, let's look here:

An analysis of EPA data by Environmental Defense indicates that mercury pollution in Colorado could increase by 148 percent from 1999 levels by 2010 under the new mercury regulations. Another look, by the Natural Resources Defense Council, predicts an even greater increase.

Under the new rule, utilities would not be required to do anything more for the next five years than they are required to do under another power-plant rule EPA issued last week.

During the second phase of the new regulations, EPA will allow a cap-and-trade approach that sets a maximum on how much pollution should be allowed, then lets companies trade within those limits.

"The cap-and-trade approach sounds great unless you are one of those people who lives near a power plant that chooses to spend money on paper credits instead of making real mercury reductions," said Carl Pope, Sierra Club executive director.

Here's some real scientific research from out Northern neighbors, not that that applies in today's faith based government:

Harmful effects due to short-term exposure to elemental mercury are rarely seen any more because of strict controls used in workplaces where mercury exposure might occur. Historically, short-term exposure to high concentrations of mercury vapour caused harmful effects on the nervous, digestive and respiratory systems, and the kidneys. In most cases, exposure occurred when mercury was heated.

Initial exposure to high concentrations of mercury vapour produces symptoms similar to "metal fume fever" including fatigue, fever, and chills. Respiratory system effects include cough, shortness of breath, tightness and burning pains in the chest and inflammation of the lungs. Occupational exposure to 1 to 44 mg/m3 of mercury vapour for 4 to 8 hours caused chest pain, cough, coughing up blood, impaired lung function and inflammation of the lungs. In some cases, a potentially life-threatening accumulation of fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema) has occurred. Exposure to high, but unspecified, concentrations of mercury vapour has caused death due to respiratory failure. All of the reported deaths resulted from inhaling mercury vapours formed upon heating mercury.

Do heated gases from coal processing constitute "mercury vapours formed upon heating mercury"?

"Is this the real life, is this just fantasy..." Sorry Freddie.