Thursday, December 10, 2009

the menace of mercury

I was doing some research yesterday on the dangers of mercury and I stumbled upon a few resources I want to pass along.

The first is an amazing video from the University of Calgary, Faculty of Medicine. Using actual brain neurons from snails, they show exactly how mercury damages brain neurons. It's extraordinary:

The U.S. coal industry emits 96,000 pounds of mercury into the air each year. Watching the video it's easy to understand why those emissions are so catastrophic for human health. What is more, the fact that drug companies continue to use mercury as a preservative in vaccines (including the flu vaccine) is absolutely fucking insane.

Next, I stumbled upon a fascinating article in the Times Online (UK): 'Green' lightbulbs poison workers: Hundreds of factory staff are being made ill by mercury used in bulbs destined for the West. Money quote:

Large numbers of Chinese workers have been poisoned by mercury, which forms part of the compact fluorescent lightbulbs. A surge in foreign demand, set off by a European Union directive making these bulbs compulsory within three years, has also led to the reopening of mercury mines that have ruined the environment.

Over a year ago I wrote a post arguing that the environmental movement was being played when it came to compact fluorescent light bulbs and increasingly it appears that I was correct. It is not a complicated argument to say that using nuclear power or mercury in lightbulbs in order to reduce CO2 emissions is a bad trade off. I'm hoping that within a year a two that organic light-emitting diode lightbulbs (OLED) will come down sufficiently in price so as to make CFL's obsolete. Related to the issue of CFLs, check out this brilliant article by Derrick Jensen on the limits of consumer choice as a tool for environmental protection.

Finally, I just ordered the book, Diagnosis Mercury: Money, Politics & Poison by Dr. Jane Hightower and hope to have a review of it soon.

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